Penn VR

Penn Medicine

Testing Medical Breakthroughs With VR


Project Overview

Penn Medicine’s Center for Advanced Retinal and Ocular Therapeutics does pioneering work to reverse blindness. To study the effectiveness of their latest gene therapy treatment, Bluecadet built a custom Virtual Reality (VR) platform. Collaborating directly with Penn’s world class team of researchers and scientists, we reinvented the eye exam.

Project Videos and Images

A researcher adjusts the parameters for a patient's session

Why VR?

When scientists study blindness in traditional research laboratories, they struggle to control for environmental factors. At the same time, questionnaires that inquire about day-to-day life provide subjective results. With VR, researchers can send patients into spaces where every detail is controlled, measured, and tracked: Light levels and sources are adjusted, objects change size and color, and users are transported instantly from room to room. The scenarios that we developed test patients’ vision in ways that mimic real-world situations, giving researchers the ability to objectively test how patients’ vision functions outside of the lab.

A researcher adjusts the parameters for a patient's session

Prototypes and Sprints

Typically, our work is more beautiful and polished. Our goal with Penn Medicine was to create a useful and effective tool. The researchers had a good idea of the specific features they were looking for, but were less sure about what the overall experience. It was difficult to define exactly what was needed until everyone had a chance to see play with some demos. As a result, we leaned heavily on our prototyping process to go from feature wishlist to fully-functional testing environment.

The concepting process

Asymmetrical VR

Unlike a standard VR experience, our platform has two very different viewing options. For the patient it’s a typical VR experience—they can see and interact with the built environment. Then there’s the researcher view where Penn Medicine staff can see behind-the-scenes and adjust testing conditions on the fly.

  • Facilitator view of the app

    Technicians can set up a “room,” populate it with a range of tasks, and instantly adjust variables like lighting to make the exam more or less challenging.

  • Patient view of the app

What's next?

Penn Medicine’s breakthrough research has inspired our team. Our work is often about building experiences that help to explain science. Working alongside Penn Medicine, we are proud to be developing the tools to make new discoveries in the treatment and eradication of blindness.

VR was unfamiliar territory for our lab. We wanted to know what was possible. Today, we have a promising new research tool. Bluecadet's prototyping process took us along that journey quickly and efficiently.

Jean Bennett, MD, PhD, F.M. Kirby Professor of Ophthalmology, University of Pennsylvania