Inspiring people to think about the future

Eye Exams by App

Eye Exams Using Smartphones

Postdoctoral Associate Ankit Mohan demonstrates NETRA (Near-Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment). The user places the device up to the eye, and using phone’s keypad, aligns patterns in the viewfinder. These alignments provide the data needed to determine a prescription. (Photo Credit, Andy Ryan)

Did you know that in the future, you may download an app and buy a $2 attachment to complete an eye exam?

There are 2 billion people in the world that don’t have access to eye care. Many developing nations lack the medical infrastructure to address the needs of their people. It’s a combination of many factors: a scarcity of doctors, facilities, and equipment.

Currently, there are two organizations looking to transform the eye care industry, EyeNetra (a research team backed by MIT) and Peek Vision (a research team based in the United Kingdom).

“80% of blindness is avoidable. Existing eye care tools are expensive, difficult to use and access. People don’t get treated quickly enough, or at all,” according to Peek Vision.

In an earlier post about tricorders, I mentioned how telemedicine may be part of the solution to this problem. Telemedicine combines artificial intelligence, ubiquitous computing, and inexpensive sensors to provide people medical access affordably. One powerful aspect of telemedicine is providing a cheap and quick medical diagnosis. Smartphones are a potential bridge to provide just that.

Smartphones are now powerful, cheap, and ubiquitous. It possesses a camera with a powerful lens to take pictures of the eye and provide a prescription for glasses. Using an smartphone app, you can also check if you have glaucoma, macular retinopathy, or cataracts.

Of course, these machines can’t do anything to correct eye problems at this point, but they can provide eyeglass prescriptions, and detect abnormalities. If problems are found, it can make a recommendation to see a doctor for follow-up.

Eye exams are just the beginning. Once you receive a prescription from one of these apps (still in development), you could then take it to someone to 3D print custom eye frames!

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