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Google Cardboard Returns Sight To A Blind Woman

February 19, 2016 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

We already knew that Virtual reality is a truly promising technology which could potentially revolutionize entertainment, but that’s definitely not all there is to it. As evidenced by a recent YouTube video uploaded this Wednesday by user Mike Tarantino, it also has the capability to bring sight back to the blind. Sort of. More specifically, the woman named Bonny who you can see in the embedded video below suffers from Stargardt disease, the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration, or in other words – a progressive vision loss caused by retinal photoreceptor cells spontaneously dying off. This condition doesn’t usually lead to complete blindness, but unfortunately, Bonny’s case is particularly severe and she wasn’t able to see faces for most of the last decade since she was first diagnosed.

Bonny was therefore blind for eight full years before she tried out Google Cardboard with a free Android app Near Sighted VR Augmented Aid which uses the rear camera of a phone to record video which it then sends to the device screen in the form of a VR image, individually displayed for each eye. This is an old technique of enhancing or creating an illusion of depth called stereoscopy which was used for over a century and a half. Coincidentally, it’s also pretty much how Google Cardboard works, and how Bonny got her sight back after nearly a decade of blindness.

The inexpensive cardboard headset designed and launched by Google in 2014 was also recently used in a complicated medical procedure which saved a baby which was unlucky enough to be born with half a heart and one lung and was declared inoperable before a Miami-based pediatric surgeon decided to use Cardboard to make 3D imagery of its heart which helped him pinpoint the previously indefinable areas which were supposed to be operated on. All in all, it’s truly wonderful to see how technology which we only usually associate with cutting edge entertainment helps save and better other people’s troubled lives, especially when it comes in a form that’s as small and cheap as that of Google Cardboard. And if psychiatrists from University College London the Catalan Institution for Research are to be believed, the next thing in line is clinical depression, as they’ve been recently experimenting with fighting this nasty condition with VR therapy.