Pilots! Improve your near vision?

GlassesOffAt my age, although so far avoiding the need for corrective lenses for my vision, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before I’ll need to use glasses for reading – including map/iPad reading while navigating.

However, now comes (among several other studies) a piece of research commissioned by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in conjunction with the Israeli Aeromedical Unit (IAMU) which suggests than an iPhone/iPad App can improve your near vision… The results of the study, presented at a recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, showed that by using the mobile App pilots improved across multiple visual functions, including 35% improvement in visual acuity and 24% improvement in image processing speed. Further, more than 70% of the participants also reported substantial changes in their near-visual acuity and 60% reported improved reaction times.

So what’s the App? It’s called GlassesOff and it’s available for both Apple and Android devices through iTunes and other online sources.

The GlassesOff App apparently concentrates not on your eyes themselves but on the other part of your vision – the way the signals from your eyes are processed in your brain’s cortex. To begin to see(!) improvements, you need to do at least three 10-15 minute sessions a week, over a period of several months. After the initial period, ongoing ‘update sessions’ should only be needed a couple of times a month to maintain your improvements. Built in to the App is an initial sight evaluation and the length of time needed for improvements is based on regular evaluations of your eye-sight.

GlassesOff offers a 2-week free trial period that includes a free vision evaluation and 2-weeks worth of sessions. Only after you complete the first phase and (hopefully) experience the product’s benefits will you need to pay for a subscription in order to advance to the next phases.

In Australia, iTunes store costs start at A$12.99 for a month’s subscription and rise to A$74,99 for a 12 month subscription.

Now, I’m a bit skeptical when it comes to what appear to be ‘alternative’ therapies. I like to see/hear that there are proven benefits before investing my hard-earned $$. However, if the IAF/IAMU and other reputable bodies have recorded measurable improvements, I might just give it a go – even a year’s subscription to this App compares reasonably with the cost of a visit to the optician and a pair of bi-focals or other spectacles. Also bearing in mind that, as a pilot, you are required to carry a back-up pair of glasses as well as the originals.

I’ll aim to give a hands-on (eyes-on?) report in a few months time.

3 thoughts on “Pilots! Improve your near vision?

  1. I spoke too soon ! I now have the original papers published in Nature, Science etc and at first sight (no pun intended !) they look quite kosher (again, no pun intended !). I will read them (after I find my glasses and give a more considered opinion


  2. Hi Peter,

    First let me say how shockingly unfair it is that some people find they don’t need reading glasses until well into…ahem…their “senior years” and others find their arms getting too short in their forties ! I am 58 and have needed reading correction for about 15 years, despite having 20:20 vision prior to that. My friend Pleun down at the “Lily” is (I hope he minds not my saying) well into his 70s and doesn’t need glasses for reading either. Mind you, he is also renovating a DC-3 and still climbing out the window of his very big windmill and hanging of a plank swinging in the wind to paint it !

    I too suspect this is more a money making scheme than anything else (the Israeli military is oft quoted in such things because..well everybody knows how good and also sneakily mysterious they are) not that I know anything about the validity of this particular claim. However..as you say..it’s an interesting idea so I too will give it a go, at least for the free trial period, and report back too. It does remind me somewhat of the E-generation version of those adds for X-Ray glasses that one use to find on the back of the boys-own mags.

    It is indeed annoying to have to carry different and multiple pairs of glasses while flying and they get in the way of the headphones etc. I recently bought a pair of aviator sunglasses on-line ($19.99) which have a 1.5x mag reading strip along about 5 mm of the bottom. This means one can look down at the iPad but still have normal distance vision. It helps, but isn’t perfect because there are still some small things on the upper panel I need to read too – the track numbers on my TruTrak AH for example.

    One other thing: recently I became a bit unhappy with some of my landings and wondered if I was just getting out of practice. I wear standard multi-focals much of my working day as I have to read, look at computer screen and still see into the distance. They grade in magnification from top to bottom to achieve this. When flying, my normal practice is to wear these for preflight checks, take them off for take-off, put them on again when setting course OH the field on XC flights and then take them off again as the last item in my pre-landing checks. I realised that I had become lazy and was no longer taking them off prior to landing. That means that, in the flare, where one relies on distance vision to the end of the field but also (especially in the Foxbat) on peripheral vision of the ground, I was not getting the full picture. I started taking off the glasses again and magically the landings have become nice again !


    • Andrew – thanks for your comprehensive comments. Re the landing problems with different spectacles – I’m aware of at least one aircraft that was written off (thankfully with no injuries) by a pilot landing near to last light wearing a new pair of vari-focals. He commented that ‘it all looked a bit different’ on approach and only later put it down to his new spectacles!

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