A long-time interest of mine is natural methods for improving vision. For many years my focus was on the methods of Dr. Bates (see my blog Better Vision, Naturally), and vision exercises taught by local behavioral optometrists.
While age is certainly a factor in declining vision, I know that working at a computer full time for more than 30 years often fought against me in my effort to maintain healthy habits of seeing. No matter how hard I tried to fight it, electronic devices such as my work and home laptops and phone would suck me into a body-less stare where I would lose touch with everything around me in the physical world and become an unwitting citizen of cyberspace.
Now, in a few ways I have made my computer a friend to my vision. A few years ago, I read about how a computer-based game helped the baseball team at UC Riverside improve their vision. At the time, I could purchase a copy of the game (ULTIMEYES) from Carrot Technology for under $10 for unlimited use that never expires. So I did and started to play.
It seems to be working for me. What’s even more interesting is that the way it works supports many of the healthy vision habits described in my free book, Better Vision, Naturally.
How ULTIMEYES Works
ULTIMEYES monitors your reaction time, sensitivity to contrast, and speed as you look for and click primitive shapes. Based on its findings, the game adjusts and customizes the game to your personal needs.
Possible shapes. One screen displays a set of one type of shape. When you complete that, another screen displays with a different set of another type of shape.
To play, the game displays a set of the same type of primitive shape on the screen that you look for and click with the mouse as fast as you can (reaction time). The shapes are the same color as the background with several types of shading that makes them stand out a little on the screen (contrast).
As you get faster and more accurate at finding and clicking the shapes, the lessons advance and become more challenging. Every few sessions, you are given a vision assessment. The results of the assessment are added into the customization algorithm for an even more personal experience.
Healthy Habits of Seeing
The healthy habits of seeing covered in detail with exercises in Better Vision, Naturally, are supported by ULTIMEYES as described here.
Relaxed, Centralized, and Aware means to not focus on what you do not see, but on what you do see, and to not strain to see what you cannot see.
ULTIMEYES teaches you to scan the screen with your eyes to spot the shapes and click them. The better you are at identifying and picking out the shapes, the more you are focusing on what you are seeing. If the game detects that you are having trouble spotting the shapes (slow reaction time or inaccurate clicks), it increases the contrast so that your mind remains relaxed, centralized, and aware. Likewise, if you are keeping up and getting faster and more accurate, ULTIMEYES descreases the contrast to challenge you to see better.
Detailed Memory requires a completed relaxed state of mind. Memory techniques take the mind to a much deeper state of relaxation to refine the vision into sharp focus.
ULTIMEYES uses sound to indicate the presence and approximate location of primitive shapes on the screen. In some sessions, the shapes appear one by one with varying amounts of time between their appearance. Then, shapes shapes start to appear more and more quickly and you try to keep up with finding them. If you fall behind, you can try to catch up by using auditory memory to scan the areas on the screen where the sounds had indicated shapes were appearing. If you fall too far behind, the game pauses and waits for you catch up.
Eye and Mind Coordination means the mind is present and interested in what it is looking at. In this state, visual images flow through the eyes and mental thoughts flow through the mind without effort. Holding onto and grabbing at images and thoughts gets in the way of the natural workings of you eyes and mind and blurs your vision.
In ULTIMEYES scanning and clicking the shapes improves eye and mind coordination as you learn to find and click as quickly as you can. You also keep your mind clear of extraneous thoughts, because they only interfere with spotting the shapes and slow you down. Not holding onto and grabbing at the images is implicit in successfully playing the game. ULTIMEYES challenges you enough but not too much so that you maintain the healthy habits of seeing that are required to spot and click the shapes.
Shifting is the involuntary movement of the eyes that allows you to scan an entire scene and pick out the minutest details. The normal eye shifts 70 to 100 times per second to see all details in a scene clearly. With eyestrain and blurred vision, the shifting of the eyes has an erratic, sticking or jumping motion that causes details to be missed and indicates an unfocused state of mind. Shifting breaks the mental fixing and jumping of the mind.
As you learn to scan the screen looking for and clicking the shapes, your eyes and mind learn to shift. Over time as you play more and advance to higher levels, the shifting becomes faster and more even.
Motion is the perception of motion as you move through space. Your awareness and perception of motion is key to mental relaxation.
Shifting leads to a better perception of motion that stays with you after you stop playing and go about your daily business.
Awakening a Sense of Space means thinking of an object and where it is before you look at it so that your mind can shift scale before you look at the object with your eyes. Blurred vision occurs when you look up after focusing at one distance because the mind is still at the focus point while the eyes attempt to see at a different point. Shifting scale helps you maintain eye and mind coordination.
In ULTIMEYES, you are seeing everything at the same distance as you play, so you would expect to have blurred vision when you finish. But that is not the case. And honestly, I am not sure why. Perhaps it’s because the game uses the other healthy habits of seeing discussed above to such an extent that you have no trouble shifting scale when you stop playing and engage in other non-computer activities. If this is the case, that implies that the other habits are keys to unlocking a flexible state of mind that awakens a sense of space around you.
If anyone else has any theories about how this works, I would love to hear them!
I have noticed that even after playing ULTIMEYES that if I spend a lot of time on the computer doing regular work, that my eyes get blurry again. Of course playing nearly every day and following some of my own advice in my book, Better Vision, Naturally, help to keep my vision in a healthy active state.