You might think nothing of a trip to the optometrist, but for people in remote parts of the world, getting to an eye doctor isn't quite so easy - and that's why a revolutionary new device called the D-EYE could change the lives of millions of people. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of visual impairments suffered worldwide could be prevented or cured through standard eye examinations and care.
The D-EYE is a lens that clips onto the back of a smartphone (right now it works with the iPhone 5, 5s and 6, and the Samsung S4 and S5). It's non-invasive, simple to set up, and requires no power to run, so it can work anywhere. With the accompanying app patients can then film their own examination, which is sent back to a specialist over the web.
Thanks to the innovative mounting bumper, eye lens and retinal imaging system that make up the D-EYE, you can essentially carry an optometrist's fundus camera around in your back pocket. "Conduct routine eye examinations and retinal screenings anywhere for possible detection of a variety of disorders, including the leading causes of blindness - cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration," the inventors explain on the project's official site.
The gadget has been developed by ophthalmologist Andrea Russo together with and Italian tech development firm Si14 SpA. Once the link between doctor and patient is established, doctors are able to remotely control the device to choose where in the eye to look, as well as set and review patient files. It provides a comprehensive view of the inside of the eyeball (including the retina, optic disc, macula, fovea and posterior pole).
As Digital Trends reports, the D-EYE uses a combination of beam splitters and levers created using the smartphone's LED flash, camera lens and autofocus. It can compensate between -10D myopia (nearsightedness) to +10D hyperopia (farsightedness). At the moment the lens costs €400 (AUD$800) with the bumper attachment selling individually for €40 (AUD$80), while the app is free to download. There are also plans for a cloud service to support the gadget and to store the scans it takes.
D-EYE isn't the only company looking to bring remote ophthalmic equipment into your own home. Blink is a startup that packs an ophthalmoscope into a briefcase that is brought to your home whenever's convenient by a qualified technician. He or she can then set up the equipment, show you how to use it, and get the results back to a professional optometrist - the idea is that the expert eye doctor can see more patients more quickly without leaving the office or waiting for appointments.
Blink only operates in New York right now, but as with D-EYE the aim is to refine the technology and get it into the hands of people who can't make it to the optometrist clinic - that could be because they have a disability of some kind or because they live a long way from the nearest healthcare centre.