A new device called eyeNETRA could change all that with a cheap, small clip-on tool for
mobile phones. Developed by the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab, eyeNETRA works
by having users look through a camera lens and align images on a display screen until the
images come into focus.
Leveraging the ubiquity and advanced hardware of mobile phones, eyeNETRA grew out of
collaborative research at the MIT Media Lab to develop and disseminate hardware apps –
affordable and easy-to-use mobile phone attachments that allow anyone to measure their
eyes and get a recommendation for treatment. Like a thermometer, eyeNETRA aims to empower
hundreds of millions in their own homes through patient centric ecosystems to diagnosis
Eye diagnostics today are archaic. They are large, expensive, disconnected, and difficult
to operate. Because of that, access to eye care is expensive and time consuming. In fact,
a lot of people think it is not worth doing an eye exam, sacrificing their health care.
As a result, many people in developing nations go without eye exams and remain unaware
that they have a treatable eye condition. Eye care is an area with a particularly high
number of untreated: over half a billion people worldwide suffer from a type of
preventable eye impairment. Uncorrected refractive errors (i.e. nearsightedness,
farsightedness, and astigmatism), presbyopia (age related eye condition), and cataracts
(cloudiness in the eye) result in lost productivity, lost independence, illiteracy and
impoverishment on a massive scale.
eyeNETRA is the most affordable mobile eye diagnostic ever made. A combination of a
mobile phone and a clip-on eyepiece that allows anyone to quickly measure their own eyes
for glasses. Through mobile connectivity, our system allows users to easily access back
end service providers and caregivers for consultation and treatment, enabling a complete
solution from awareness to treatment.
The project was initially tested in Boston, and then rolled out pilots in India, Kenya
and Brazil to see how the device worked in the field. Evaluation of eyeNETRA found that
the system closely approximated the results from traditional optometry tests; the margin
of error was under .5 diopter (prescriptions come in multiples of .25 diopter). The test
initially only looked for refractive errors (such as myopia [nearsightedness], hyperopia
[farsightedness], and astigmatism), but now also diagnoses cataracts.