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Partnership develops video game software patented for age-related macular degeneration research

Jan 24, 2022

A partnership that includes BALANCED Media|Technology, the Retina Foundation of the Southwest and Southern Methodist University is seeking a patent for machine learning software for OCT images aids in identity progression and treatment options 

A partnership that includes BALANCED Media|Technology, the Retina Foundation of the Southwest and Southern Methodist University (SMU), today took the wraps off a patent-pending medical imaging technology that uses automated software and a video game to provide standardized, accurate, and precise identification of ocular diseases including age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

According to a news release, the partners also signed a 10-year exclusive license, development, and commercialization agreement for BALANCED to bring the medical imaging technology to the $35 billion AI healthcare market.

The news release noted that to assist the Retina Foundation of the Southwest, BALANCED created and crowd-sourced an original video game, Eye in the Sky: Defender. The partners noted that the game uses optical coherence tomography (OCT) retinal images embedded in the game’s environment to create human-computational image segmentation. As players predict the path of the alien force in the game, they unknowingly learn to trace lines used to perform diagnostic measurements of OCT retinal scans and create new datasets.

When integrated with BALANCED’s Hewmen artificial intelligence (AI) platform, these new datasets were used by experts at RETINA and researchers at SMU to provide the information needed to train a machine learning (ML) algorithm to analyze OCT images more accurately and precisely.

According to Corey Clark, deputy director of research and assistant professor of computer science and engineering for SMU Guildhall, an assistant professor of Computer Science at SMU Lyle School of Engineering and CTO at BALANCED, human and machine collaboration is the next step in machine learning and AI.

“This application is a great example showing how injecting human knowledge and intuition into the machine learning process is able to create something that neither were capable of doing on their own,” Clark said in a statement. “This is just the first step. I believe we will see many more exciting things come from these collaborations in the future.”

According to the news release, by leveraging this level of human-in-the-loop (HITL) computational model, as well as human computational gaming (HCG), it’s now possible to use AI to quickly analyze millions of individual datasets (retinal images) to detect patterns and pathologies that would have been impossible or impractical given the scope.

“This technology could be a game-changer for researchers and drug manufacturers in the data analyzation of disease progression, drug trials, and treatment efficacy for age-related macular degeneration, among other diseases,” said Karl Csaky, MD, PhD, CEO and CMO at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest. “With this technology we are seeing substantial improvements to image analysis, decreasing our time and cost, and seeing a significant increase in the number of images processed and associated accuracy and precision of image processing.”

Csaky recently joined BALANCED as an advisor, assisting the company as it prepares to bring its medical imaging technology to market.

Research was made possible with a $2.5 million grant

Supported by a $2.5 million grant award from the W. W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation at Communities Foundation of Texas (CFT), RETINA and SMU Lyle School of Engineering partnered in a collaborative venture six years ago to help to rapidly prototype new diagnostic and clinical treatment approaches, focusing on the specific needs of patients who are losing their vision to age-related macular degeneration.

According to the news release, the research behind the patent filing is the result of that effort.

“We are so glad to see this application of human-machine collaboration in a gaming environment making a difference to the critical health challenge of AMD,” Marc Christensen, Dean of SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering, said in a statement. “We think this activity is a prime example of how AI and gaming technology are permeating far-reaching corners of our everyday