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  • 12.03.14

This Clever Device Turns Phones Into Sophisticated Eye Exam Machines

Another reason you soon won’t have to go to a doctor ever again, because your doctor is in your phone.

The most important medical invention of the last 10 years? It could be the smartphone.

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Together with attachments, mobile phones can now be used for many health care tasks–from electrocardiography to ultrasound. And normally at a cheaper price. “M-health” opens up medicine to billions of people who’ve previously lacked access.


Peek, a mobile-based eye exam kit, is another of the new breed. Developed by researchers in the U.K., it consists of apps plus the Peek Retina, an adapter that clips to the top of a phone. The attachment lines up patients’ eyes in front of a camera lens, letting health workers look to the back of the retina when a picture is taken.

“It projects light with the correct intensity and angle to illuminate the retina,” explains Mario Giardini, who developed the hardware. “That is then visualized on the phone.”

The team behind Peek–which also includes Stewart Jordan, Kate Tarling, Andrew Bastawrous, and Iain Livingstone–has been testing the kit for the last two years in Kenya, Botswana, and Mali and plans further studies in the U.K., Tanzania, Malawi, and Kenya. They are currently on Indiegogo looking for about $110,000. “The money will allow us to bridge the gap from the prototype to delivery of the first batch of manufactured devices,” Giardini says.

The products were originally designed with the rural developing world in mind. Trials so far have shown the kit lets workers process up to 1,000 patients a week. But Giardini thinks it could have applications in the developed world as well–for example, to screen people in care homes or prisons.

“Whether it’s in Africa or a high-income country, effectively this is a screening tool,” he says. “It can also address a need here–say, in the United Kingdom or the U.S., where we need to scale the population and pick up people who need further attention.”

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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