Project Details

A close up of a man's eyes


The portable eye exam app

By PeekVision

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @peekteam

  • Health
  • Audiovisual
  • Data
  • Mobile

Peek, which stands for ‘portable eye examination kit’, is an app and a $5 clip that together turn a smartphone into a tool that can diagnose visual impairments: from cataracts and glaucoma to macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

The main bit of the ‘kit’ consists of a 3D-printed black plastic adapter that slots over a mobile phone handset. This works with the phone’s built in flash so it can scan retinas with the ophthalmological accuracy of a $25,000-camera. The only other physical object the team has developed is a solar-rucksack to charge and back up the phone, so field workers travelling by bike or on foot can conduct eye exams using the phones in very remote rural and low-income communities.

80% of blindness worldwide is caused by disease, so is avoidable if diagnosed and treated. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s Dr Andrew Bastawrous moved to rural Kenya to set up a network of mobile clinics to research and improve the treatment of eye patients in this area, which has some of the highest levels of blindness worldwide, and quickly realised the biggest impact he could have in transforming care would be to find an alternative model to bulky, costly, fragile hospital eye-exam equipment. ‘I thought there has to be an easier way,’ he says.

So he and a core team of three fellow UK medics, a hardware designer and software developer, set about hacking a smartphone. The team has run trials with 2,500 people and found their low-cost solution can deliver equivalent results to the costliest, totally untransportable hospital models. And best of all, each Peek costs just $500.

As well as retina scans, which can be assessed in the app or uploaded for remote diagnostics, the app lets fieldworkers test visual acuity, field, colour vision and contrast sensitivity. Patients can be geo-tagged to ensure follow up and to allow NGO or hospital managers to search by condition to deliver mass treatment campaigns or generate big data. A local elder or community leader is also tagged in each area to help trace anyone who might subsequently move away.

39 million people in the world are blind. ‘It’s only in statistics that people go blind in their millions,’ Dr Bastawrous told an audience at TED. ‘The reality is that everyone goes blind alone. But now they might be just a text message away from help.’

A really nice, extra function in the Peek is the ‘Sight Sim’, which, on a splitscreen, gives a simulation of the visually-impaired individual’s vision, so sighted people in their community, teachers, community workers or family, can literally understand how they see things, and adapt things accordingly. 

Image 'Hiding' courtesy of OUCHcharley

Last updated: 23rd of July, 2014

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