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AN Interviews Professor Aaron Seitz Part 2

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In Part One, Neuroscientist Aaron Seitz talks about the basics of his study improving collegiate baseball players vision. Today we find out more on how MLB players (and the general public) can use his app to significantly improve their vision and improve their performance on the field. We will finish the interview and explore what this means for the future of MLB.

super human vision for the playoffs?
super human vision for the playoffs?
matrix code

Secret Weapon Series


Link to Part 1

Scott Parker- OmahaHi :

Question: Were there any ill effects and what would an ill effect even look like?

Professor Seitz:

There weren't any ill effects that we were able to measure.

I think it's an important question for any part of an intervention to see what the downsides are. We are definitely keeping our eyes open (so to speak) to potential downsides. The nice thing about this type of behavior intervention (as opposed to some of the medical approaches to the eyes) is that there really aren't known risks.

Some of the concerns someone could have would be if this would train them to see better in one condition but might have negative effects in another. The program was really designed so that it would be kind of a general exercise approach to vision. As more people do more studies, I'm sure that there might be a couple of people who have certain conditions where this might lead to eye strain.

I've been really careful not to include people that suffer with migraines doing the studies because there was some anecdotal information from a colleague of mine that this could trigger a migraine. However there are a couple of people that I know who have chronic migraines who were interested in trying it out and when they tried it out they had no ill effects. So far really so good.

Question: Is the study participants average age being 18-23 relevant?

Professor Seitz:

Yes and no. I think that technically it's relevant in that for any study it's important to understand what the population was and to realize that before one generalizes effects to a different group that one thinks it through carefully,

On the other hand, this is a group of people that in all expectation would be the least likely to get a benefit from this training because their vision started off so good to begin with. They are really at their peak of their cognitive abilities.

They also are engaged in a visually intensive sport, and they all play-action video games which have shown some positive effects on vision and cognition.

The thing that I think is intriguing is if we can get this large an effect on those who have good vision, it's really exciting to see what we will get out of people who have poor vision. My hope is in another year or so, some of the studies I'm doing in people with low vision and with other demographics will be ready for prime time so that I will be able to say with confidence this works, here's the data.

Generally speaking, the older you are the worse your brain is doing with visual information and other cognitive information and the more room you should theoretically have for improvement based upon this type of training.

Question: On the 7 players that improved to (20/7.5) vision.
Was there any evidence to suggest that they had a better performance than the average of the rest of the players?

Professor Seitz:

That is a great question and it's really hard to answer. Most of our analysis was focusing on changes in performance from year to year.

The changes in vision in some of these players is not necessarily larger than the changes in vision in the players with poorer eye-site. Also we didn't have a large amount of people so it was really hard to do a correlation analysis.

Then the question if somebody is better from the beginning. Why it's true that at least a couple of players who had the best vision were some of the top players, there are so many different aspects of somebody's self that makes them a good or bad player that it would be absurd to say that vision is the only thing in town. I mean there's a huge aspect of visual motor coordination, and there's a huge aspect of just the mental game. The skill of knowing what to do in any given situation.

A lot of these factors are probably playing a larger role than vision itself, so it would really require a larger sample and a better quantification of these other skills before we would be able to make a good measure of the contribution of vision to the game.

Question: I want to move on to the 4-5 win improvement.
Why did you decide on (1.81) as the exponent in your Pythagorean formula?

Professor Seitz:

First a caveat, I'm not the main sabermetrician on the project. Dan Ozzer, the middle author, is the person who knows more about that. I've heard of Bill James before this, but I didn't know that much about him.

The answer is it is supposedly the more accurate exponent in order to make a prediction in runs created and runs allowed to the actual performance when one starts looking at large amount of data. My understanding is that these formulas will converge to the actual winning rate as they start including more and more games, and that convergence is closer at (1.81) than it is with 2. ( 2 was used in Bill James original Pythagorean formula.)

Question: On the 4-5 win improvement.
Was that (4-5 games) based on all the players or ultimately just the ( eleven ) batters in the study?

Professor Seitz:

What was done was we took the actual number of runs, and then we subtracted from that the change in the runs created as estimated by the (11) minus league over league improvements. Technically it's a combination of the team and the 11.

We kind of had to do the best we could because those 11 were the only ones who played both years, and so those were the only ones we could make the estimate of runs created on. Except if we want to look at the truth of the actual runs, that was something that was created by the whole team.

Question: On the 4-5 win improvement.
4-5 wins in a 54 game college season equates to 12-15 wins in a 162 game MLB season. Right now the approximate cost of a win on the free agent market is $6.5 million dollars. That could easily be multiple tens of millions of dollars ($25-$75 million) in increased player value in one MLB season. Any comment on that?

Professor Seitz:

(chuckles) I would really love to work with some of these major league teams and see if we could make it worth their while.

Even if we work with them on a consulting basis and charge more than the 6 bucks per person this is currently available for online, it seems silly not to try and do something like this.

I know that other teams are engaged in some type of visual training, but most of the training they do is these visual motor training that do not really address the kind of brain based component of vision that we target.

I think the first teams that do this will see an advantage and my guess as time goes on; I don't know whether it will be my program or something that is similar to it, but I think this type of vision training is going to become standard with time.

Question: You said 6 bucks a player would you explain how you would do that online, could anyone do this now? The general public? I want to try the study.

Professor Seitz:

Yes. The program that we sell online for six bucks is actually a slightly improved version of the program we used for the study.

There's going to be some differences if you use it in your home because what we did is we made sure that we had high quality computer monitors and that we really insured that the players did all their sessions that they were suppose to under the right conditions. We had controlled laboratory settings for when they used it but it's the same thing.

We wanted to make this available so's exciting to create something that can improve vision, and there are strong reasons to believe that it could help many different people with different visual issues and so not just athletes. So anyone can try it and to get the best results, better control your conditions.

One of the things I want to do with athletes in the near future is get these super high-resolution monitors and make even better tests with wider fields of view and such.

The version from the study it out there.

Question: Where is it out there?

Professor Seitz:

Go to

There's a website were you can download it for the Mac, PC or iPad. There's so much interest in Android, that we looked pretty quickly and we have a beta app and that should be publicly available shortly.

Question: That test online is basically the same test that the players did?

Professor Seitz:

Yes. It's slightly better in terms of some of the functionality of the program, but as I said part of it is that it will work best with good monitors. For the baseball team, to really test the limits of their vision, we had the players sit 5 feet away from really high quality monitors.

For future studies and especially if I get a pro team to do this, one of my first suggestions would be for them to get larger and higher quality monitors because when it comes down to it, when you get to the limits of vision, your looking at how large is the pixel. That's important for this.

The smaller the pixel the better. At five feet, one pixel on the screen that were using is one arc minute, which is basically at the limits of vision that were able measure. So the smaller these pixels are, the higher the acuity that we could test. Even with a retinal iPad, at two feet the best acuity we could test with that is 20/20. So if you want to get beyond that, you need even higher pixel density,

The two tricks you could do, is either get a more expensive screen that has more pixels or to take a less good screen and move it farther away from the person.

Question: Whats next for this study?

Professor Seitz:

Basically, more and bigger. I'm trying to do studies looking at more aspects of vision that could be changing with the baseball team. We are doing tests of reading speed and tests of stereo vision and also trying to test dynamic vision and trying to understand a broader description of what's happening.

I'm trying to study more people so that we have a better idea of the individual differences and effect sizes. I'm trying to do more controls so were able to measure the differences of visual components and non visual components.

I'm trying to look at other sports; and in terms of baseball, this year we did train the pitchers. We would like to know to what extent it influences pitching.

People ask if it helps with catching, and it's hard because of the big question of fielding. It's been tough because we had a small number of people and they're each playing different positions. There is a lot of differences between each position. We need to have many people at each position in order to come up with an estimate on how its helping with fielding.

This is just part of a long laundry list of things we are working on that we would like to get answers for that the current study doesn't really address. Were not going to run out of things to do.

Question: I think that, as a group, umpires would be a good subject for this study.

Professor Seitz:

( chuckles) I'm sure a lot of the players would also say that.

Question: Is there anything you would like to add?

Professor Seitz:

No this has been fun.

Scott Parker: I appreciate your time.

Professor Seitz: Thank you. Take care.


So there you have it.  What does all this mean in the world of MLB baseball? How would a MLB team take full advantage?

First of all, Proffessor Seitz emphasized that high quality monitors would be ideal for those seeking the biggest improvements. As such, I asked Digital Alchemist Ty Audronis about a few scenarios on the high end of monitors for the public and MLB:

If price were a concern, you could use a 4K monitor ( such as the Dell PT-2815 for around $600 ) to get a higher resolution / pixel density.  Granted, to drive such a monitor, you'd need a video card for your computer that costs around $400.  But if that could yield better results, it's still a whole lot less expensive than Lasik surgery.

For a high-budget sports team, the ultimate solution could be a full-dome system (such as the Griffith Park Observatory's Planetarium).  Theoretically, such a dome could be outfitted with 4K projectors. Since domes typically use six projectors overlaid in a kind-of soccer-ball pattern, the effective resolution could be as high as 10K square (10,240 x 10,240) pixels.  Also, since it's a dome that the images would be projected upon, all of the pixels would be equidistant from the subject, work with peripheral vision, and be around 20 to 30 feet away (giving a stunningly clear image.)  Of course, this would cost a few million dollars...but to have a team with eagle vision might be well worth the cost.

Ty Audronis
- Former Supervising Editor, Science Visualization, California Academy of Sciences, and Consultant for the Television and Film Industry.

Here is another quote I found from Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey that applies:

The game evolves constantly. Evolution in baseball works a lot like it does in real life: traits that confer a competitive advantage tend to be passed on. But before a new approach is adopted around the league, someones going to have to be successful doing it.

Final thoughts and my speculations:

The professor is working with pitchers this year.  My guess is pitchers and defense will see improvements, but not nearly as much as the hitters. MLB may need to eventually raise the mound as a new age of offense takes hold in MLB.

These visual acuity studies and results in all likelihood are going to be even better in the near future. Early adoption team will have an advantage.

While this app will probably not get a bunch of 25-35 year old players to have super vision (20/7.5) in the near future ( they may improve percentage wise more, but have much worse vision to start with) they could absolutely improve their vision enough to improve confidence and on the field results in time for this years playoffs.

Where this is also going to make a difference is in the 12-18 year old looking to get drafted or scholarships. These young players looking for a competitive advantage will be all over this now, and by the time they hit MLB could be the first generation of MLB super-human vision players. 20/5 may be attained by some of these young players with better monitors and better apps and 20/7.5-20/10 vision may be attained by a 30 year old.

And vision is just the tip of the iceberg in senses that can be improved. Georgia Tech has been developing wearable devices that provide coaching and training to more rapid training of skills and tasks:  Haptic feedback and augmented reality improves skill learning.  It's only a matter of time that these advanced sensory training methods will result in faster, stronger and better athletes in many sports.

For now, I just want the A's to give Professor Seitz a call. There is no reason this years team can't take a crack at it starting now. And by this time next year, every level of every minor league team in the A's system could be churning out better vision players.