A new smartphone-based portable eye examination kit called Peek is aiming to bring hope to people suffering from eye problems who live in remote parts of the world. Besides being portable and easy to use, system makes it possible to perform complex eye tests with no need for expensive equipment.
The Peek eye-testing system consists of a mobile app and clip-on hardware that turns an Android smartphone into a portable, affordable examination and diagnostic suite. It is enabled with many features, including geo-tagging, which makes it easier to locate a patient, and several eye tests such as visual field, acuity (clearness of vision), color vision, contrast sensitivity, lens imaging for cataracts, retinal imaging and image grading. The researchers say they are working on several other applications including an autorefractor, front of the eye imaging, and a suite of pediatric-centered examination tools.
The project is being developed in London by a team of researchers that includes Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, an ophthalmologist and research fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Stewart Jordan, co-founder of Golden Gekko, one of the largest mobile application developers in Europe. They are currently in Kenya, field-testing the Peek app to adjust it to local conditions.
The Peek team says that 285 million people in the world are visually impaired, with 39 million of these people actually blind. The good news is that 80 percent of blindness is avoidable, although 90 percent of those people live in low-income countries where treatment is not always available.
Once a patient is visited by a Peek-using health worker, who can move more freely without bulky gear, data from the eye exam is recorded on the phone and can be shared with experts anywhere in the world, such as Moorfields Eye Hospital in London. Google Maps helps in locating the patients, as the phone guides health workers to them. Once the patient is diagnosed, treatment can then be arranged.
The system is also being tested by members of the Coldest Journey expedition in Antarctica, led by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, which set sail in March. The expedition is said to be the first-ever attempt to take the dangerous 2,000-mile (3,219-km) journey across Antarctica in winter. Equipped with an early version of Peek, the team is using it to test their eyes as they are subjected to extreme weather conditions, and find out how their eyes and vision change as a consequence of prolonged exposure to cold and darkness.
The Peek researchers are planning on performing a range of studies and are open to suggestions and collaborations.