MIT researchers are putting smartphones to good use in the fight to protect human eyes from the world’s leading cause of blindness.
“Existing diagnostic methods require Slit-lamps,” say the MIT geniuses behind an innovative new mHealth tool. “We propose (CATRA) a new solution to detect and quantify cataracts with a compact eyepiece attached to a cell phone. With no moving parts and built from off-the-shelf components, our solution is well suited for the developing world.”
In concept, the technology in play is remarkably sophisticated. Its application, however, isn’t as complicated to grasp.
Essentially, the “snap-on eyepiece” attaches to any small LCD screen and “projects time-dependent patterns onto the fovea.”
Due to the known fact that a cataract eye refracts light before it reaches the retina, the smartphone can be used to measure and compare a “good light path” with a “bad light path.” In the process, CATRA can even be used to estimate the cataracts “size, position, and density.”
The real significant behind the development by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is that the detection of cataracts may now be easier in parts of the world where ordinary testing means and tools are either too expensive or too out of reach to be readily deployed.
While the standard test for cataracts in an ophthalmologist’s office assigns a score on a scale of 1 to 4 — from no cataracts to completely blocked vision — the new, inexpensive test actually provides much more information.
The new screening tool will be presented at the annual computer-graphics conference SIGGRAPH (Aug. 7-11) in Vancouver.