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ADG Interview: EyeSpy 20/20 Founder Richard Tirendi , Combining Gaming With Eye Testing

Posted on January 29, 2014 AT 02:11pm

ADG wants to hit you with something that comes very close to home being I myself suffer from an eye disease, keratoconus. VisionQuest 20/20 is bringing EyeSpy 20/20 to the forefront of children’s eye testing using what we love, video games. I took the time to interview Richard Tirendi, the founder of EyeSpy 20/20  to educate and get the word out about this medical history breaking computer program.

ADG: What was the inspiration for EyeSpy 20/20?

Founder, CEO , Richard Tirendi


Richard Tirendi: Two differing inspirations combined to form a unique collaboration between a children’s eye surgeon and a technology developer, who together set off to revolutionize how vision problems are found in children. I experienced total blindness for 2 1/2 weeks as a child due to a poisonous insect bite… a terrifying experience he never forgot. Nationally recognized, pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. James O’Neil was becoming increasing frustrated in witnessing the guilt and sadness from parents upon informing them that their child had irreversible blindness in one eye that likely could have been prevented if only the problem had been found earlier in life.

This blinding condition, amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is the leading cause in vision loss in people under age 45. Undetected vision problems, even those that may not result in blindness, can devastate children academically and psycho-socially. Current methods for screening vision were developed more than 150 years ago and are subject to memorization, peeking, and human interpretation. So, in addition to each Founder’s personal inspiration, the simple idea that every child deserves to see served as our collective motivation – knowing that there had to be a better way.

ADG: Who came up with the concept?

Richard Tirendi: Dr. O’Neil witnessed his own children’s “love” of games. In addition, he instinctively knew that automation was the key to accurate and reliable vision screenings. It was his insight and vision (no pun intended) that led to the creation of EyeSpy 20/20. I had developed many complex software systems during his 20 years in the high tech world and was confident that he could bring Dr. O’Neil’s concept to fruition. Thanks to an introduction from trusted adviser, Will Wright, we worked with the late Randy Pausch and his team at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. It was Randy’s team who designed the graphic animation components of the vision screening video game, EyeSpy 20/20. We are honored and privileged that Randy’s legacy lives on, in part, through this program.

ADG: What type of game does the user play?

Richard Tirendi: EyeSpy 20/20 appears to be a very simple matching game. Although older children can play the 2-3 minute game, it is designed primarily for children 4 to 9 years old. The color palettes used and motion sequences had to be carefully developed in order to achieve the medical purpose of the program. EyeSpy 20/20 is precisely measuring each response from the child and adjusts itself in real-time to maximize accuracy, minimize time, and ensure the child remains engaged. Each screening is customized for the child based on their age and is randomized to eliminate the possibility of memorizing the test. EyeSpy 20/20 quickly ensures that the child comprehends the game before assessing their visual acuity, depth perception, and color vision. All screening data is stored in a HIPAA compliant data repository for each school and bi-lingual reports are automatically generated after each screening.

ADG: What else can we expect to see from EyeSpy 20/20 in the future?

Richard Tirendi: We are constantly exploring ways to improve EyeSpy 20/20 and ultimately protect more children’s vision. There are 2 primary objectives with the system; first and foremost, accurately vision screen children in a fun, reliable, and easy-to-use way. The second primary objective is provide school personnel with a time and money saving method for vision screening their students. We will continue to add vision assessment techniques and refine the automated protocols. We will be adding additional game motifs and offering the vision screening reports in languages other than English and Spanish. Schools will find expanded data management & reporting capability and integration with more electronic health record systems over the coming months. Screening proctors will be offered multi-lingual user interface and instructional screens.

ADG: Are there any expansions or other video game related tech coming from you and your team?

Richard Tirendi: EyeSpy 20/20 is a data collection platform that can be expanded to include other information – hearing screening, for example. In addition to the data collection, we are exploring other childhood screenings. As with the vision screening game, the research, development, and independent validation study take several years to complete. We are looking forward to developing more technology and integration of other technologies into our platform.

ADG: Anything else you wish to share or tell the readers?

Richard Tirendi: Ever since their invention, I have absolutely LOVED video games. Many a blistered thumb I suffered in the early Atari days. It is amazing to be working with such talented and committed people in area of technology that I’ve always enjoyed. The privilege of having developed a technology that has helped nearly 250,000 children thus far is a dream. I knew that Dr. O’Neil’s brilliant idea had merit but nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming response from parents, teachers, and nurses sharing the positive impact on children who had not been known to have a vision problem until screened by EyeSpy 20/20.

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Being a fan of video games, since introduced to him by his brother looking at Combat and Pac-Man on the Atari. AntDaGamer has been in touch with video games, art, and technology. Grasping his hands around several video game related websites and communities such as TGN, GameOn, Twitch.tv, Youtube, and his own site AntDaGamer.Com. Ant has managed to find contacts in the industry and show he has a passion to do anything video game related.

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