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Google Cardboard app to simulate neurological vision disorders (2017)
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Vision Disorders

This app started as a project for my neuropsychology class. We had the freedom to pick a research project to work on over the course of the term. As I am a programmer interested in learning about computer graphics, I decided to do a project about simulating neurological vision disorders. However, instead of just generating images that simulate disorders like colorblindness or hemianopia, I decided to use my Google Cardboard for a more immersive experience.


This application is designed to show how disorienting vision disorders can be. Some simulations can be a bit dizzying to look at. Please view with caution! In particular, if you are sensitive to flashing lights or get motion sickness, this app may not be for you.


In order to run this app, you need the following:

  1. Android Studio or other IDE
  2. Google Cardboard or other compatible
  3. A Bluetooth controller is needed to navigate the menus. See Buttons below for what buttons are needed.

This app uses the Google VR library


  • Simulate a few different vision disorders
  • Learn more about 3D graphics and OpenGL ES. Up until now, my experience with graphics was mostly limited to 2D only.
  • Learn how the Google VR library works


  1. Install the app on an Android phone.
  2. Connect to a Bluetooth Controller
  3. Put the phone into a Google Cardboard
  4. Explore the simulations. Each one has several variations

Simulation Controls:

When selecting a Bluetooth controller, try to use one that has at least one button in each category

Button(s) Action
D-Pad Right, B Button, R1 Button, Volume Up Go to next simulation
D-Pad Left, X Button, L1 Button, Volume Down Go to previous simulation
D-Pad Up, Y Button, R2 Button, Cardboard Trigger Next variation
D-Pad Down, A Button, L2 Button Previous variation
Start Button Reset current simulation to the first variation
Select Button toggle mode/variation indicators


The program is composed of several simulations. Each one has several variations to show normal vision in comparison to the disorder.

Simulation 1: Color Blindness

The typical human has 3 types of cone cells, one each to view red, green and blue light. However, some people have a cone that is not functioning normally or is completely unusable. This condition is known as color blindness. Losing a single cone results in a drastic reduction in the number of colors that can be seen.

There are many different forms of color blindness or color deficiency. I chose to implement a subset of them:

  1. Normal color vision - this is for reference. The viewer stands in the middle of a RGB cube. Note where Red, Blue and Green are before viewing the other variations
  2. Protanopia (Loss of red vision) - This is one of the two forms of red-green color blindness. Red and Green will be confused and will show up as yellow. Also note that even in the blue side of the cube, it is much harder to distinguish shades of color.
  3. Deuteranopia (Loss of green vision) - This is the other form of red-green color blindness. It will look pretty similar to Protanopia.
  4. Trianopia (Loss of blue vision) - When the blue cone is not working, blue and green are confused for a color in between - cyan.
  5. Achromatopia (Loss of color vision) - When no cones are working, a person's vision relies on rod cells, which only view the world in grayscale.

Simulation 2: Akinetopsia (Motion Blindness)

Akinetopsia is a disorder of the motion-processing areas of the brain (V5 and V1). Someone suffering from this disorder sees the world in snapshots.


  1. Normal vision - A scene with some moving blocks to look at.
  2. Akinetopsia - The frame rate is greatly reduced, simulating the stroboscopic vision of motion blindness.

Simulation 3: Hemianopia (Partial loss of vision)

When someone is blind in one eye, this is usually due to some damage to one eye or the other. If instead the neural pathways to the primary visual cortex are damaged, the persion may lose vision in half of each eye, a condition called Hemianopia.

Note that some of these simulations are not quite accurate due to the limited field of view of the Google Cardboard.


  1. Normal vision - A scene with moving blocks to look at
  2. Left Homonymous Hemianopia - Loss of vision in the left half of each eye.
  3. Right Homonymous Hemianopia - Loss of vision in the right half of each eye.
  4. Binasal Hemianopia - Loss of vision around the nose. Note: This is not as accurate as the others due to the limited field of view of the Google Cardboard.
  5. Bitemporal Hemianopia - Loss of the half of the field of vision on the sides. Note: This is not as accurate due to the limited field of view of the Google Cardboard
  6. Right Superior Quadrantanopia - Loss of vision in the upper-right quadrant of eye.
  7. Left Inferior Quadrantanopia - Loss of vision in the bottom-left quadrant of each eye.

Simulation 4: Tetrachromacy Analogy

Tetrachromacy is a condition where some women have a fourth cone cell. This fourth cone cell detects light at wavelengths between red and green. This additional cone allows a tetrachromat to see many more shades of color that the rest of us cannot see.

Obviously, viewing the world like a tetrachromat sees it is impossible for us trichromats, much like trying to visual shapes in 4 spacial dimensions. However, it still can be explained by analogy. In this case, I chose to describe it using color depth.

Imagine the days when we only had a few colors per red/green/blue channel. Such a view of the world has color vision, but it only captures limited shades of color. This is analogous to regular color vision with three cones.

Now think about graphics today. We have 256 colors per red/green/blue channel. This is a huge increase in the number of colors we can now represent. For example, between red and green, there are many, many shades of yellow and orange. It just requires a sufficient color depth to view them. This is analogous to tetrachromacy; a tetrachromat would be able to see even more in-between shades that most of us will never see.


  1. Low color depth image - Pretend this is what a normal person can see
  2. High color depth image - Notice the sudden increase of visible shades. This is analogous to tetrachromacy.


Here are sources I referred to when making my project. Some were used for my in-class presentation.

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