EyeSpy 20/20: Technology that could save a child's eyesight

An estimated one out of every four school-aged children has an undetected and untreated vision disorder. If it's amblyopia ("lazy eye") and it's left untreated through age 9, the damage could very well be permanent.

Those statistics spurred a pair of entrepreneurs into creating an interactive video game designed to screen children for a wide variety of vision disorders. Called EyeSpy 20/20, the technology is being distributed to schools throughout the country in hopes that every child can be effectively screened, diagnosed and treated.

"Children can have a vision disorder where they simply do not see the world clearly and they don't know any different," said Richard S. Tirendi, a Phoenix-based electrical and computer engineer who launched VisionQuest 20/20 with James W. O'Neil, MD, an ophthalmologist and children's eye surgeon who now serves as the company's chief technical officer. "There are a whole range of lifelong consequences that can stem from untreated vision disorder, and yet they can be very easy to detect and treat."

Tirendi, who suffered a temporary loss of vision at age 5 from a poisonous insect bite, said he and O'Neil were casual acquaintances for several years before the two hit upon the concept of EyeSpy 20/20. After several years of development, they sent their technology to the renowned Medical University of South Carolina's Storm Eye Institute, which took another three years to validate the process for scientific accuracy and reliability.

According to Tirendi, the EyeSpy 20/20 technology can be easily downloaded onto a computer or laptop, launching an interactive video game and computerized stereogram that tests children for distance acuity, depth perception and color vision and can be integrated with other vision screening technologies. The test results are stored in the cloud, which can be accessed by school health professionals, and sent home with each child to his or her parents.

"It engages the child, which actually improves the accuracy of the test," said Tirendi.

That's a far cry from the typical screen test, conducted in an ophthalmologist's office, which makes use of a wall chart that was created in 1862 and which nearly every living person can memorize over a short period of time. Add to that the fact that children do have a tendency to "cheat" their way through eye exams, and a nationwide shortage of skilled ophthalmologists, and the case is made.

With their technology validated, Tirendi and O'Neil moved into the second phase of their operations about three years ago when they began distributing EyeSpy 20/20 to schools in the Phoenix area. The technology is now available in schools in several states, from Alaska to Florida, and has been featured on the Fox News Channel, NBC Nightly News and NPR as well as the Huffington Post and CNBC.

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