Robert Hess, PhD, DSc: How Tech Can Improve Lazy Eye

April 29, 2020
Samara Rosenfeld

The inventor of a digital therapeutic discusses the creation of what he calls a "software pill."

Robert Hess, PhD, DSc

A new digital therapy for the treatment of amblyopia (lazy eye) may soon be approved as a software as a medical device, according to recent news by Novartis.

Last week, Novartis announced the completion of its acquisition of Amblyotech, a US-based software startup, to continue the development of the acquired digital technology. The software uses active gaming and passive video technology with 3D glasses to train the eyes to work together to view a full image.

Robert Hess, PhD, DSc, and a team of inventors at McGill University in Canada and Ubisoft, wanted to build a video game that was more effective than traditional patching for the treatment of the condition that affects nearly 5% of the population.

Hess, a professor and director of research in the ophthalmology department at McGill University, and colleagues built the technology and aimed to guarantee that those using the software were using both eyes together. They started with Tetris, where the individual saw falling the blocks with the bad eye at high contrast and the ground plane blocks were seen by the good eye at low contrast, Hess said in a video interview with HCPLive®.

Over time, the individual’s eyes would improve.

The acquisition of Amblyotech by Novartis could allow for a more global reach of the technology.

“It’s fundamentally important because it is very innovative and very novel,” Hess said. “For anybody to finance this, it’s very risky because what we’re saying here is that instead of taking a pharmaceutical pill, you can take a software pill.”

To learn more about the technology, check out the video interview with Hess below.