The COVID-19 pandemic has placed members of our community off work and out of school as they are self-isolate at home. Electric Puppets is working with the IWK Children’s hospital to find ways to increase access to services for Nova Scotians while at home, including medical assessments, ability to participate in research, and access to technology that can be used for education and opportunities to explore virtually. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be working to specifically address vision testing and assessment for existing and new patients at the IWK throughout the province and will be working on getting equipment to them so they can continue to be assessed while at home. As the program expands to wider patient groups, Electric Puppets is exploring ways to leverage community resources, and it’s hoped that an emerging relationship with the Nova Scotia Provincial Library could lead to community support from public libraries to provide high speed internet service, manage equipment loans, and assist community members as they access services.
“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IWK Eye Clinic will be developing a remote vision assessment protocol to ensure on-going care and interaction with patients and families. We are interested to include Electric Puppets in this endeavor and modify the Evrisia project in order to achieve this goal.”
A team at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax is looking at eye testing in a new way thanks to an experiment with virtual reality.
The eye clinic works with patients ranging from infants to adults and depends on the subjective responses from patients to help with a diagnosis. That can make their work tricky, especially when small children are expected to undergo exams that can routinely run an hour long.
Dr. Darren Oystreck, an orthopist at the hospital who also works with the health faculty at Dalhousie University, estimated his profession has used the same tests for six decades to check for disorders of binocular vision or eye alignment issues.
“You compare it to other areas of medicine where they’ve had amazing breakthroughs in technology in some of the things they can imagine now and the data they can collect is mind-boggling,” he said.
Oystreck uses equipment like flashlights, pictures and foggy goggles to conduct his work and keep the kids focused.
Last year, his team decided it was time to look for new options. That’s when they met Ryan Cameron, the CEO of Electric Puppets, a Halifax-based virtual reality company that specializes in children’s programming.
“Everything [Oystreck] needed could be applied to many other areas, like brain injury research,” he said.
Cameron has adapted the old vision tests to a virtual reality program.
For the team at the IWK eye clinic, the collaboration allows the eye doctors to alter settings and try a wider range of scenarios, all while recording the reaction of a patient’s eyes.
The hope is that for children in particular, it will lead to more accurate observations.
“They can calm down and relax and feel familiar with the environment quickly and then we can start to put them through the classic tests,” said Oystreck.
The program is being tested and studied at the hospital. The team needs to prove the results are just as accurate — if not more accurate — as the old tests, and they’ll produce a peer-reviewed study.
Steve Van Iderstine, a research associate at the IWK, said virtual reality systems weren’t designed for medical use, but they have great applications for that.
“I’m hoping in a year from now we’ll have good data to demonstrate that the virtual reality version of these tests has strong validity, then we’ll be able to look forward to the more exciting environments that we can generate with the virtual reality,” he said.
Cameron said those environments, for example, could be a virtual circus where kids would have the impression they’re playing a game, when in fact they’re being tested.
Van Iderstine said because virtual reality systems are commercially available, they’re far cheaper than medical equipment. They also take up less space.
He hopes headsets sized for small kids will soon be available.
For Cameron and his company, this program is just the beginning. They have a patent pending on their work, and they’re hoping that virtual reality could be used in the treatment of everything from physiotherapy to psychology.
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Despite the rapid uptake of digital technology in many of today’s biggest industries — with gaming and entertainment leading the way — the healthcare sector is slow to adapt to change.
Halifax-based Electric Puppets, headed by CEO Ryan Cameron, aims to help them on their way.
The company, under Cameron’s direction, offers solutions to real-world problems by harnessing…
CEO, Electric Puppets
Ryan Cameron has been a serial innovator since 1997. In 2000, Ryan led a team to create the first interactive versions of the beloved Little Golden Books for Disney Interactive, and then became CTO of an international US based firm that delivered online education to fortune 100 corporate employees. Ryan was CTO of online educational companies for the next 10 years before starting his own innovative online educational company, and advised on international boards and organizations as well. Ryan created online educational products that won numerous awards and helped hundreds of thousands of fortune 500 employees learn important new skills in multi-year award winning online programs. Ryan joined Copernicus Studios in 2013 and led the interactive division to create one of the first speech recognition engines tuned to children’s voices to empower early literacy applications, and then founded Electric Puppets in 2016. Ryan is an avid rare book and antique collector and lives on an acreage in Chester, Nova Scotia.
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Virtual reality and augmented experiences have revolutionized entertainment and gaming industries. Now, Halifax entrepreneur Ryan Cameron is working on bringing this technology to a clinical setting.
His company Electric Puppets uses VR and eye-tracking technology to improve on the basic tests patients take when they visit the eye doctor.
“In current cases, they’re using tests that are over 100 years old,” Cameron said in an interview. “It’s a combination of lenses, physical equipment, dials and whatnot.”
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Virtual Reality is coming to Nova Scotian Health Care.
Ryan Cameron and his Electric Puppets won $50,000 from the Spark Innovation Challenge.
He paired with the IWK Eye Care Clinic to improve their diagnostic and therapeutic tools.
He says it will let them track patient’s eye movements and pupil dilation.
“That gives us all kinds of diagnistic data about conditions and things they have in their eyes, including things like alignment,” he said.
“In some ways an unprecedented amount of data compared to the current tools they have.”
Other sparks winner from the South Shore include Finleaf Technologies, Nexus Robotics and Suru.
Spark funds technology-based businesses in early stages of development.
They first launched in Cape Breton in 2014 and have expanded across the province.]]>