NEXT TIME YOU'RE sitting next to someone who is playing games on a phone, take a close look. It might be Clippers point guard Chris Paul working out.
This is an article from the March 7, 2016 issue
Over the last year Paul has been helping a company called InnoVision develop a free app called Game Vision by Chris Paul. It looks like many other mobile games: Gray dots fall from the top of the screen, and when the user taps on dots with specific markings, those dots turn into fireballs that smash bricks at the bottom. But hidden behind the simple action are algorithms that exercise the 50% of a person's brain involved in vision. "The area of contrast sensitivity in your brain—and visual acuity to a lesser extent—is actually pliable," says Derek Cunningham, a sports vision expert who studied Texas Rangers players for InnoVision over a period of 60 days.
But optometrists and ophthalmologists usually test the visual acuity of the eye and not the contrast sensitivity of the brain. "Your eye is nothing more than a data capture. You don't see with your eye at all; you see with your brain," says Cunningham, "and that's where we have an opportunity to really refine what you see." The gray dots in the Game Vision app are actually composed of alternating fuzzy black and white lines designed to stimulate parts of the visual cortex. Research done on 23 college-age participants using a previous InnoVision app called GlassesOff, published in Scientific Reports in 2014, showed a significant decrease in the time taken for letter recognition (from 204 to 120 milliseconds).
Seeing faster than the opposition is critical in basketball, according to Paul, who has an ownership stake in InnoVision. "My position running the point is all about how quickly I can make decisions based on how I read the defense," Paul explained in an email to SI.
Paul wasn't qualified to consult on the algorithms for Game Vision, but he did help with the aesthetics of the app. When it comes to vision, you want something that looks good.
If your phone just died, don't worry. Here are some non-pixelated ways to improve your vision.
[This article consists of 3 illustrations. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
Ask a friend to hold a pen at arm's length in front of you. Try to place the cap on it.
Get a partner to hold a straw horizontally about a foot in front of your face. Focusing on the center of the straw, try to insert toothpicks into the ends.
Dynamic Visual Acuity
Write two-inch numbers on baseballs and ask someone to throw them to you. Try to read the number before the ball reaches you.
For more athlete training profiles and tips, go to SI.com/edge