An Iphone App for Eye Exams in Developing Countries

More than two hundred eighty million people around the world have vision problems or are blind. The World Health Organization says nine out of ten of them live in developing countries. And eighty percent of the problems can be prevented or cured.

Uncorrected cases of near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism are the leading cause of vision problems. These are called refractive errors. They often go untreated in countries with limited health care systems.

IPhoneRefractionsBut researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new way to identify eye disorders with a smartphone. They call it Netra, which means eye in Sanskrit but stands for Near Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment.

A person downloads software to a phone and attaches a plastic eyepiece over the screen. The user looks into the eyepiece and uses the buttons on the phone to move two lines until they appear as one.

The person’s vision problem is identified by the number of clicks required to line up the images. The results can be sent to an eye doctor to make glasses.

The cost is two dollars and the researchers say the results are as good as a traditional eye exam. The phone app is still being tested and is not yet available.

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