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Could this NETRA Android app kill the optician business?


Researchers at MIT’s media lab have come up with a prototype Android app which lets users check their own eyesight by viewing their mobile phone screen through a special plastic lens device. The eye test software on the phone then works out the data needed to create their eye prescription in around 3 minutes. Note that it won’t be able to check out your eyes for disease like glaucoma.


The whole thing looks as though it could come in at around $2 a pop for the lens plus software and phone, which compares pretty well with pricey optician’s lab kit we reckon. Sounds like a spiffing bit of tech to us, but no doubt the optical profession will disagree if they think it interferes with profit patient care. [Via]

  Does NETRA replace optometrists? No. Our device can be thought of as a thermometer for visual performance. Just as a thermometer measures corporal temperature and does not prescribe medicine, NETRA measures the refractive error and does not necessarily prescribe glasses. NETRA allows a user to self-assess the performance of her eye over time. The goal of NETRA is to empower people, not replace optometrists.

1 Comment

  • Refraction (the part where you only find out if you need glasses or how "strong" your prescription for glasses should be) is only one part of an eye exam. As mentioned in this article, the doctor makes an overall evaluation of the health of your eyes inspecting them for diseases or other issues other than refraction. Early detection of diseases, as widely known, is very good since problems could be fixed before they get worse.

    We live in a DIY (Do It Yourself) mentality because not only is DIY empowering and satisfying, but that it also saves you money. That said, however, the DIY person must also understand that some things are just best left to the professionals. Although some things can be easily done like changing a spark plug in your car or changing a faucet at home, great care should be taken about a person's health because not only is the diagnostic equipment not readily available to DIY people, but neither is the knowledge necessary to interpret the results from the machine used in doing the diagnosis not to mention the skills required in operating the machinery in question. Most people would be loath to fix their own cavities with a dentists drill, give themselves a haircut or suture their woulds with stitches. The equipment used in a eye doctor's office is more than just getting to figure out what type of glasses you need.

    All the downsides aside, I think it is a nifty piece of technology that may have some positive effects. There are a slew of people who show up at a doctor's office with a breath away from death, after avoiding doctors for years whilst suffering needlessly, seeking a 5 minute cure – usually the DIY crowd. And to the DIY crowd, this device could be a segue/ gateway to their doctor's office where they can discuss further their DIY findings.

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