VIDEO: Dig Rush - Gameplay Trailer [00:36]
Assassin's Creed and Far Cry publisher Ubisoft on Tuesday announced its latest game, and it's probably not at all what you expected. In association with medical company Amblyotech and researchers from McGill University in Montreal, the publisher has revealed a therapeutic video game designed to treat Amblyopia, which is also known as "lazy eye."
Dig Rush is the name of the game, and it has the potential to offer long-lasting treatment for Amblyopia, Ubisoft says.
Around 9 million people in the United States are affected by Amblyopia, making it the number one cause of monocular blindness, according to representatives from Amblyotech. For the past two hundred years, one of the leading treatments for children affected with Amblyopia was to have them wear an eyepatch over their strong eye to stimulate better vision in the weaker one.
However, this form of "patching" therapy is not ideal, according to Ubisoft and Amblyotech.
“While current treatments options, such as eye patching, provide limited relief and have poor patient compliance due to discomfort and social stigmas, the Amblyotech-patented electronic therapy has been tested clinically to significantly increase the visual acuity of both children and adults who suffer from this condition without the use of an eye patch," Amblyotech CEO Joseph Koziak said. "With our agreement with Ubisoft, we are further able to provide physicians with a complete and accurate picture of treatment compliance to help them monitor patient progress throughout therapy."
For its part, Ubisoft senior producer Mathie Ferland called Dig Rush--in development at Ubisoft Montreal--a "breakthrough novel medical treatment" for Amblyopia.
Dig Rush, a basic side-scrolling game, utilizes both eyes to train the brain in an effort to improve visual acuity. This is done by utilizing different contrast levels of red and blue seen through stereoscopic glasses that the player wears. The game itself, played on a tablet, can automatically adjust to a person's specific eye condition. The game also naturally adapts later on as visual acuity improves.
Another issue with the patching treatment for Amblyopia, developers said, is that patients are prone to relapse after the therapy has ended. But all signs are positive so far for Dig Rush as an alternative. About 90 percent of patients have seen improvements during early testing, measuring better visual acuity just 4-6 weeks later after they started played the game.
Developers noted that the patching method is only successful about 25 percent of the time.
Amblyotech is now seeking FDA approval for Dig Rush and hopes to offer the game later this year. But you won't be able to head to iTunes and simply download the game. It will be available only through a physician's prescription. Amblyotech representatives said they see Dig Rush as a drug just like any other. It's the "next generation of a syringe," they said.
Tablets will come pre-loaded with Dig Rush and patients are asked to play about an hour per day for 4-6 weeks to see lasting results. Data from the game is measured in real time and sent to a doctor to ensure patients are following their prescription. After all, a drug only works if you take it in the proper dosage.
So how did Dig Rush come to be? Ferland recalled visiting a "hacking" event in Montreal and, by chance, he heard about about McGill researcher Dr. Robert Hess' attempts to treat Amblyopia with video games using Amblyotech's app. He approached Hess and Amblyotech about a potential partnership, and the companies have been working together since.
Amblyotech's early prototype for its game was quite rudimentary and not very fun to play, the company admitted. But after all, they aren't game designers. That's why the company jumped at the opportunity to work with Ubisoft on the project.
Of course, Ubisoft's work on Dig Rush doesn't mean they'll stop making Assassin's Creed or Far Cry games anytime soon. What do you make of Ubisoft's new moves? Let us know in the comments below!