For the second year in a row, student video game developers from the University of Utah’s Entertainment Arts & Engineering (EAE) have won Best Student Game in the Serious Games Showcase & Challenge in Orlando, Florida. The award was announced Thursday, Dec. 3, for their game to help combat lazy eye in children.

Working with researchers at the John A. Moran Eye Center, a team from the U created “HealthX” to help diagnose and treat lazy eye, which can lead to permanent visual impairment if left untreated. Fully controlled by eye movement, the game forces the lazy eye to move around the screen, which can strengthen and help find the right balance between the eyes.

“Lazy eye is one of the most common eye disorders found in children,” said Ahmad Alsaleem, a graduate student in game engineering and co-researcher on “HealthX.” “Despite its prevalence, clinical treatments and current diagnostic tools are not designed with the child’s nature in mind. As researchers in the gaming field, we are working to ‘gamify’ current medical procedures. Our solution provides an engaging experience, continuous feedback and a cost effective, automated tool for treating and diagnosing lazy eye.”

“HealthX” is a collection of eye controlled games including a top down shooter that requires fast target acquisition and a slower paced balloon popping game. Both games require the player to constantly move their eyes across the screen at varied time intervals. This movement trains the eyes to work together.

“We are currently using an eye tracker that uses near infrared light to monitor the eye and its movement,” said Eric Allen, graduate student in game production and co-researcher. “We can accurately monitor and report every action the player makes.”

“HealthX” is currently in clinical trials with selected patients at the Moran Eye Center and the students hope the game will be available by the end of next year.

Read the full press release in the U News Center.