As most of you probably know, the eyes are vitally important parts of our bodies, not just for the purpose of sight, but also for the early detection of health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and tumors. In the US and most developed countries, it is relatively easy to reach an optometrist and get an eye exam to catch some of these health problems.
This is why the MIT Media Lab has developed a revolutionary eye exam system using only a camera-equipped smartphone and an inexpensive eyepiece attachment. The portable device allows people in any region of the earth to receive cheap, accurate eye exams in order to diagnose vision and other health problems. The hardware attachment and the mobile app can be purchased for as little as $2, allowing hospitals and clinics in poverty-stricken areas to administer an affordable eye-testing solution.
MIT has created two separate eye-testing apps that measure the eye in different ways. One is the called the Eye Netra, which measures the refractive error in the eye. The user looks into the eyepiece and interactively aligns the displayed patterns by clicking a button. The number of times the button is clicked determines the severity of the user’s refractive error. The smartphone app measures focal range, focus speed, lens opacity, etc. to determine a vision prescription on the spot.
The second app is called Eye Catra, which tests for the presence of cataracts, the leading cause of blindness in the developing world. This software works in a similar manner to Eye Netra, where the user presses a button to align their site with the displayed patterns. The device scans the lens section by section, collecting the data to create an attenuation map of the entire lens, displaying information about the density, size, and positioning of the cataract.
MIT hopes that these devices will play a role in finding a solution to a major world health issue, someday working their way into the homes of people across the globe. On the Eye Catra website, the developers explain that their “goal is not to replace optometrists or ophthalmologists but to create self-awareness. By retrofitting 4.5 billion phones out there, we hope to rapidly solve the expensive equation for a world-class health care.”
Over the next two years these devices will undergo extensive clinical trials with doctors from around the world in order to define medical procedures and further understand their testing with various medical conditions. Hopefully, groups like the Himalayan Cataract Project will someday be able use these devices to provide affordable, quality vision diagnostics, reaching a step closer to ridding the world of preventable blindness.
If you would like to donate or get involved with this project in any way click here.