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$2 Eye Exam
A doctor and his colleagues from MIT have developed a smart phone attachment that allows do-it-yourself eye exams for just $2.
Researcher Ramesh Raskar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and his colleagues have developed a software application and a smart phone accessory that allows users to perform quick, inexpensive eye tests at home or anywhere else. Dr. Raskar’s device is called the Near Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment (NETRA). In less than a minute the NETRA device can be clipped on to a mobile phone with a suitable LCD display and detect whether a person needs glasses or not.
The NETRA will cost about $2 and is a plastic device that snaps onto any smart phone that has downloaded Netra-G software that turns the phone into a mobile refraction unit. Users look through the pinhole device and use the phone’s arrows to align the patterns displayed. People with perfect vision will see a single line, while shortsighted or farsighted users will see multiple or distorted lines that will indicate the power of the glasses needed. Aligning the patterns provides a measure of the eye’s optical distortions and a refractive lens correction is computed on the spot.
The NERTA device can diagnose conditions of near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. The developers hope the device will eventually be used for do-it-yourself eye exams performed by minimally trained individuals in developing areas of the world where optometrists are not accessible. Current technology for exams requires a large $10,000 phoropter diagnostic machine that needs highly trained professionals to operate. The simple NETRA system will allow small entrepreneurs to distribute eye glasses in third world nations without a true “store” but with complete diagnostic capability. The device could eventually create new jobs and new small businesses in a new industry through Dr. Raskar’s goal of disrupting the $75 billion eye care market and better satisfying the 2.4 billion people who need vision correction through on-demand eye tests and greater access to eye care.
Dr. Raskar’s and the development team backing the commercial distribution of NETRA have conducted scientific trials and say the product is ready for field testing later this year in a number of countries, including Brazil, India and Mexico, and eventually in the US, although the first country the device will be sold to the public in will be India.
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