New App Improves Athletes’ Eyesight

Exercise your eyeballs

Mar 10, 2014
Outside Magazine
eyes digital robot eyes!

Have bad eyesight? There's an app for that.    rvlsoft/Getty Images

Forget eyeglasses and Lasik. Downloading an app might improve your vision by up to 31 percent. University of California, Riverside neuroscientist Aaron Seitz has found a way to gamify eyesight tests to increase your ability to react to visual stimuli. For athletes—or anyone—with impaired vision, the results are promising.

The $6 app, called UltimEyes, tests for neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to adapt to changes in surroundings over time. The app flashes graphics containing "targets" and "distractors." The user taps on the targets as quickly as possible and earns points for each correct identification.

"[They are] the kinds of stimuli that will excite cells in the visual cortex," Seitz explains. "So with repeated practice, you're able to identify these when they are harder and harder to see."

The practice group, the university's baseball team, noted eyesight improvements by up to two lines on traditional vision charts after training with the app four times a week. They also saw improvements in their peripheral and low-light vision.

Although the long-term effects of the app are still unknown, researchers are optimistic. "We all know this idea of use it or lose it, and with any other skill that we engage in, we get rusty if we're not actively practicing. Vision is really the same thing," Seitz told Smithsonian magazine.