Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sight Unseen

I have terrible eyesight. As I've said before in this blog, I think having all those interactions with binocular devices and remote controls and styluses early on made me interested in VR technologies at a young age. Certainly, my eyesight is so bad that I'm grateful to live in an industrialized society, because natural selection would have eliminated me from the gene pool otherwise. (Thankfully, I seem not to have passed these traits on to my children, so should they need to flee a saber-toothed tiger they won't fall off a cliff doing it.) Four surgeries and many thick pairs of prismed eyeglasses later, I still dread my annual eye exam, because I am always reminded by a trained professional of just how deeply defective my vision is.

The device on the right is a test of peripheral vision in which the user clicks every time he or she sees a wavy set of lines appear. It reminded me of how this kind of arcade-style action was described by Janet Murray in Hamlet on the Holodeck as a "tight visceral match between the game controller and the screen action" that is punctuated by a "palpable click on the mouse or joystick." Murray also argues that this form of interactivity "requires very little imaginative effort to enter such a world because the sense of agency is so direct."

The machine made me think about how the medical establishment is beginning to assume that patients are familiar with specific forms of mediation and remediation that weren't common fifty years ago, unless you worked in aviation or space exploration. Although little old ladies probably don't have much experience with videogames, they too must be using this device. The doctor insisted that patients find it quite intuitively easy to master, and he doubted that any particular modes of cultural literacy were necessary to operate it. I'm not so sure. "Games for health" often aim at either younger patients or at doctors who are already familiar with cyber-practices for expert diagnosis and treatment, but perhaps opticians will be leading the way with the mainstream population.

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Blogger trillwing said...

I always feel I'm at a game show when, for one particular test, the optometrist hands me the little stick with the button on the end (very like a suicide bomber's trigger from the movies, now that I think about it). And when I was a child I thought it was just magical that I could look into a box with a glowing photo of a farm at the back of it, and it would automatically focus so I could see clearly the little yellow tractor.

Magic, I tell you--magic!

(My vision is crappy, too, an accident of birth and the result of too much early reading in poorly lit spaces, I think. Thank goodness, as you point out, we're not in the Pleistocene!)

3:24 PM  

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