New vision app keeps baseball players' eye on the ball

"Seeing" with your brain: New app boosts visu... 04:19

Batting practice seems like a no-brainer for David Andriese. Nearly every time he swings, he connects. It's the same for teammate Joe Chavez. But both players say they struggled last season.

"I had a tough time picking out the spins between fast ball and change-up," Andriese said.

"Pitch recognition," Chavez added.

Andriese agreed: "Pitch recognition."

Their improvement is visible, but as CBS News correspondent Carter Evans explains, it didn't come from practice on the field, it came from workouts in the school science lab.

Andriese and Chavez were among the 19 members of the baseball team at the University of California Riverside taking part in an experiment. The goal: training their brain to see better.

The players spent 25 minutes per day, four days a week, using a new app called UltimEyes that was designed to expand brain power.

The app's interface may seem like just out-of-focus wavy lines, but it's much more.

"These blurry blobs are called Gabor patterns," explained Aaron Seitz, a Riverside professor. "As we go through the screens, the wavy lines become closer and closer together, and so that's actually a measure of visual acuity."

Being able to see better is something that you kind of have to trick your brain into doing, so as Seitz attests, it's not making the eyes work better, it's making the brain work better.

The brain registers only a fraction of what we see. Every image enters the retina upside down and is recorded by 125 million photo receptor cells. That information is compressed down to just 1 million fibers to fit through the optic nerve.

"Most of the visual field is very fuzzy," Seitz said. "We only have a sense of clarity because we're moving our eyes about all the time."

After two months, the players boosted their vision by 30 percent. Their improvement on the field was calculated using the math made famous in the film "Moneyball."

Able to see 90 mph pitches in sharper focus, the team scored 42 more runs and five more wins in one season, while striking out less.

"I'm a bit of an older school guy, but I think if you don't look at the science part of it when it's staring you right in the face, you're not very bright," said coach Doug Smith.

The officers at the Riverside Police Department are used to "old-school" training too, but they are using the app after seeing the stunning results with the baseball team.

"Whether it's routine driving, pursuit driving, some of our firearms training, our marksmanship, sight and the quality of sight is important," said Lt. Dan Hoxmeier of the Riverside Police Department.

Two dozen motorcycle officers, police pilots and SWAT teams are now in vision training. In the weeks ahead, their success will be measured in the lab, and on the streets.