Whether you’re in your final year of optometry school or getting ready to finish your first, you’ve taken courses in vision therapy (or will soon!). For anyone interested in this specialty and also into technology, you’re in for a treat! Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Jen Simonson, OD, FCOVD and Rebecca Gerull of G-Labs who designed the Stereoscope for the iPad as well as their own vision therapy app called “Opto.” As an owner and user of the hardware, I can tell you it’s something I’ll be using in my practice for years to come.
Thank you for taking the time to chat! First off, can you tell us a little bit about how this idea came to life?
The G-Labs story really began when Doug Gerull was referred to my clinic for a persistent double vision problem. Because of his international travel, he had difficulty practicing his therapy procedures. He even spilled coffee on his lifesaver card while practicing at the airport and couldn’t fit the Bernell-o-scope into his luggage! He asked me “What vision therapy exercises are available for iPad?” Unfortunately, at that time, I didn’t have much to offer him that specifically worked on eye coordination, alignment, and eliminating double vision. Out of this practical need, Doug began to use his experience in technology and optics to design the Stereoscope for iPad and the app now known as “Opto”. With the combined efforts of our small team of co-founders, Doug’s vision became a reality and now G-Labs (short for Gerull Labs LLC) products are used in vision care practices around the world!
This is an amazing device. You must have a lot of patient success stories from using it!
Absolutely! Here is a testimonial from a vision therapist:
“I have a little 4-year-old patient who has strabismic amblyopia. He is very wiggly and it is hard to get him to look at any stereo targets. He looks away and I have never really been able to get a good idea if he is seeing float. So I took our large mat for body work and made a tent out of it. We climbed in (laying on our bellies) and did 3D pets in all fields of gaze! He was super into it and because it was so bright and globally stimulating, he was telling me everything about what he was seeing – that was just recently! A week later (I just saw him) I sat him down in front of the projected Quoit and for the first time in 31 sessions (we have been seeing him on and off since 2/2013) he reported correct float on both BI and BO and SILO!!! He is 4!! He has never been so engaged and verbally communicative about what he was seeing. Thank you for working so hard to put together the Opto program – it gave him just what he needed to understand where he was looking and what he was seeing. I also used your words “where do your eyes and brain see it?” and he totally got it! I Love it! Had to share with you and spread the love. He also got full abduction today in his amblyopic/strabismic eye for the first time ever and sustained it for 3 whole seconds! We are moving forward finally! This little guy has been a tough nut to crack and we still have work to do but we are on our way!” – Erin Pedersen O.V.T
As optometry students, what are the benefits to us embracing this new technology in VT?
- Compact: You can do a lot of vision therapy procedures without taking up a lot of space. When I started vision therapy, I just had an exam lane to work in.
- Cost-effective: Most of the procedures within Opto are $14.99 or less. These activities can be used across multiple devices when signed into the same apple ID. You don’t have to buy multiple sets or replace damaged equipment. You can just buy pieces that you will use, or save by buying a bundle of exercises together.
- Interactive: Now you can interact with the 3D images, build speed and accuracy, and change the level of difficulty with a finger tap.
- Innovative: IPads are highly engaging and have quality graphics. Using technology makes the therapy room look more modern and impressive to patients and parents.
- Practical: Our patients are using iPads and computers in everyday life. Opto helps them train visual skills for the digital technology they will be using for projects and academic testing.
- Versatile: You can train visual skills in various gazes and distances. We even mirror the iPad onto a large-screen TV using an Apple TV, which allows us to do near-far activities.
- Documentation: The app records the results of each procedure. We are able to print results or save them to the patient’s electronic health record.
- Demonstration: The best way for me to demonstrate progress to a parent is with a picture. Trying to explain a phoria position often makes a parent’s eyes glaze over. But when I show them a VO star drawing at the start and end of therapy, they can easily see the difference in performance.
- Biofeedback: The red/cyan glasses used with Opto provide very good and consistent cancellation. This gives great feedback on suppression and depth perception to the patient and doctor.
- Positioning: I love the magnetic base included with the Stereoscope for iPad. I can quickly mount it on the wall (or a file cabinet) to use with my patients who are not able to use table-based stereoscopes, such as those in wheelchairs.
What are some favorite activities patients use on the app?
It is hard for me to pick! Opto has three procedure categories – stereoscope, red/cyan, and free-space (other). In the stereoscope category, I love the cheiroscopic tracing series. I use an ultra-fine tipped stylus and have just as many adults using this procedure as children. In the red/cyan category, I really like the “Fish” exercise – it builds convergence and divergence ranges, just-noticeable-differences, SILO, and parallax perception just like a vectogram or tranaglyph. The slider control allows you to make a smooth vergence change or you can tap the buttons to adjust the targets in 0.5 prism diopter steps. Another favorite is the “Strings and Spheres” activity in the free space fusion section. It is a mix between a lifesaver card and a virtual reality brock string.
My children like the “Alien Tracing” activities the best. I use this exercise to improve oculomotor skills, eye hand coordination, and with the red/cyan glasses on we can also work on monocular fixation in a binocular field. I have a blog that talks about all of the ways we use the app in clinic, including how to use it with the balance board, trampoline, and walking rail.
Are there events where we can go and demo the product? Do you guys do presentations at the optometry schools?
In the USA, Good-lite and Bernell distribute the Stereoscope for iPad so you can demo it at events where they are exhibiting. The Opto app is available from the App Store, but you can learn more by watching the videos on the G-Labs website. If students are interested in a Skype or in-person presentation with their clubs, just contact us!
Jen Simonson, OD, FCOVD, Clinical Director of the Boulder Valley Vision Therapy Center (Boulder, CO), Co-Founder of Gerull Labs, LLC
Thank you to G-Labs, Dr. Simonson, and Rebecca Gerull for taking the time to share this with OptometryStudents.com!
If you are looking for more information on their hardware or interested in ordering, G-Labs has a special discount for optometry students! Go to http://gerull-labs.com/student-offer and enter the discount code: STUDENT20