New app changes smart phones into eye-phones


by KING 5 HealthLink

Posted on October 19, 2010 at 12:58 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:43 AM

You name it, there's an app for that. Researchers at MIT have now developed one that detects eye problems fast. It's called NETRA - Near Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment.

"You can think of this device as a thermometer for your eye. It will measure what is wrong with your eyes, and then you might provide that data to a doctor who will provide glasses," said Ramesh Raskar of the MIT Media Lab.

The patient looks through an eyepiece that clips onto the cell phone's screen. She uses the arrow keys to move sets of parallel green and red lines until they overlap.

"The number of steps it takes for the patient to align the lines indicates to us nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism," said Raskar.

Refractive errors are the second-leading cause of blindness, affecting two billion people worldwide. This eyepiece costs two dollars and requires no expertise, unlike expensive optometry equipment.

Belinda Vandervoot is one of the testers.

"You can see this being distributed to people where they can reach thousands and thousands of people who will not otherwise have access to any kind of eye care whatsoever, " she said.

Taya Leary had LASIK surgery and needs check-ups three to four times a year.

"It personally would save me the time and frustration of going to the doctor's office as well as it helps me stay on top of my sight," she said.

The creators are now testing NETRA in developing countries. It's not yet FDA approved.

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