Smart Phone App Saves Eyes
An MIT team of researchers aims to make eye tests more accessible as they develop a mobile app that can be used to test for vision problems. WHO estimates there are over 153 million people in the world that are either blind or visually impaired because of uncorrected refractive error. This is due to lack of eye care mainly in developing countries. An inconvenience at best and a serious health hazard for those affected, it also causes a large global loss in productivity. A group of scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have teamed up and developed a mobile app called Netra that can measure vision impairment with the help of a plastic eye piece connected to the phone. Although not ready for mass distribution yet, the team evaluates the cost of the piece to be around $2 at the moment and once mass produced, it will drop to a mere few cents. The team hope their app will help to bring better quality of life to millions affected by lack of eye care.
How it works
The developers explain that the $2 plastic piece is attached to the screen of a mobile phone. The user then looks through the piece onto the screen where two lines appear. They then have to align the two lines by using the keypad and the app then evaluates the refractive error depending on how many clicks it takes until the lines are aligned correctly. According to the developers it is as accurate as the traditional method, however does not replace the importance of optometrists. They compare it to a thermometer, as it indicates if something is wrong but does not actually prescribe anything. The app simply tells the person how strong their glasses ought to be.
The developers believe that due to its portable nature the app can really revolutionise eye care and make it accessible to those who need it most. It is also much cheaper to produce than the traditional equipment and it is a faster method as well, all adding to its cost efficiency. It is also far safer to use than the traditional laser-based method.
It is worth noting that the problem is not of course resolved by merely noting that a vision problem exists, so the next step is to figure out is how to get affordable glasses for those that need them most.