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New Study Reveals Athletes Better Than Video Game Players At Dynamic Visual Skills

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A new study out of the University of Waterloo reveals that athletes still fare better than action video game players at dynamic visual skills. Strong visual skills are crucial for athletes looking to perform at the highest levels, and it is what differentiates an average athlete from an advanced athlete. 

Dr. Kristine Dalton is from Waterloo’s School of Optometry & Vision Science. 

“Athletes involved in sports with a high-level of movement — like soccer, football, or baseball — often score higher on dynamic visual acuity tests than non-athletes,” said Dr. Dalton. “Our research team wanted to investigate if action video gamers — who, like e-sport athletes, are regularly immersed in a dynamic, fast-paced 2-D video environment for large periods of time — would also show superior levels of dynamic visual acuity on par with athletes competing in physical sport.”

Dynamic Visual Acuity

Visual acuity is the clarity or sharpness of vision, and it is most often measured under static conditions during annual check-ups with an optometrist. However, new research is demonstrating that testing dynamic visual acuity is actually a better measurement of a person’s ability to see moving objects clearly. It is a crucial skill for success in both physical and e-sports. 

The team of researchers used a dynamic visual acuity skills-test designed and validated at the University of Waterloo. With this test, they discovered that physical athletes score highly on dynamic visual acuity tests as expected, but the action video game players tested closer to non-athletes. 

Athletes vs. Video Game Players

Alan Yee is a PhD candidate in vision science. 

“Ultimately, athletes showed a stronger ability to identify smaller moving targets, which suggests visual processing differences exist between them and our video game players,” said Yee.

The participants were matched based on the level of their static visual acuity and refractive error, which helped the researchers gain insight into how dynamic visual acuity is the varying factor in the test performances. 

Sports vision training centers that develop video game-based training programs to help athletes improve their performance will also find the new research valuable. 

“Our findings show there is still a benefit to training in a 3-D environment,” said Dalton. “For athletes looking to develop stronger visual skills, the broader visual field and depth perception that come with physical training may be crucial to improving their dynamic visual acuity — and ultimately, their sport performance.”

Alex McFarland is a historian and journalist covering the newest developments in artificial intelligence.