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Poor Vision? There's an App For That

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the i-can-see-clearly-now dept.

Medicine 146

necro81 writes "Researchers at MIT's Media Lab have developed a smartphone app that allows users to measure how poor their vision is (myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism) and receive a corrective prescription. The user peers through a $2 optical adapter at the screen of a smartphone. The app displays lighted bars, and prompts the user to adjust the display until the bars line up. Repeating this with bars in different locations and orientations allows the vision distortion to be determined to within about 0.4 diopters using a Nexus One. The iPhone 4, with its higher-resolution display, should be able to improve that to 0.28 diopters. This could have broad application in the developing world, where experienced opticians and diagnostic equipment are hard to come by."

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App for that (4, Funny)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786474)

Is there an app to bite my shiny metal ass?

Re:App for that (1, Informative)

GraZZ (9716) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786584)

Oh my yes.

(Hey mods, go watch the newest Futurama episode. Highly relevant.)

There's a branding joke in there somewhere... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788026)

Something along the lines of phones, eyes and Apple's tendency to name their products by sticking a vowel in front of another word.
Can't quite put my finger on it though.

o-Phone? i-Ris-Phone? pho-O-pil?

Re:App for that (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32788590)

"This could have broad application in the developing world, where experienced opticians and diagnostic equipment are hard to come by."

Now why on Earth could that be? Does he mean the THIRD WORLD, rather than the (cough) "developing" world? Surely he doesn't mean the part of the planet that is inhabited by useless BLACKS, whose average IQ is about 70?

So why are "experience opticians and diagnostic equipment" "hard to come by" (cough cough) in Africa?

Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Africans HAVE NEVER INVENTED A WRITTEN LANGUAGE.

So there IS no history of Africa, before 'evil' white people went there. Still, let's keep the big lie going for as long as possible, probably right up until YOUR country is overrun with these 'wonderful' people, and YOUR children are living in abject poverty (or worse, are dead) because of it.

Which developing world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786480)

The one without smartphones, you mean?

Re:Which developing world? (5, Insightful)

DWMorse (1816016) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786528)

Nobody said a steady 3G connection was required for this sort of use, or that for every person using the app, they had to own the device.

Even an iPhone 4 is a ton more mobile than a phoroptor, and a lot less expensive, since phoroptors clock in around $5,000 and take a trained professional to use.

A sole traveling, untrained, non-optometrist Peace Corps kid with an iPhone 4 and a box of donated used glasses could make a big damn difference.

There... Fixed that for you... (4, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787680)

A sole traveling, untrained, non-optometrist Peace Corps kid with a box of donated used glasses could bring a box of glasses.

You almost had it there. You did (almost) stumble blindly on it (no pun intended), but still...

1 - Based on the "Developing countries can't be choosers" axiom, it is not really THAT important to people living there if the eyeglasses really fit their prescription 100%.
Particularly, if the glasses are free.

2 - Based on 1, there is a much simpler way of testing for the right prescription under those conditions (choosers not too picky, choice rather limited anyway...).
It consists of the "patient" trying out several sets of glasses until he/she finds the one that works for him/her.
You know, like you would with a pair of sunglasses.

And, based on my own day-to-day observation from what you might call a "developing nation" (Bosnia) that model works perfectly well even for the paying customers.
E.g. people who can't really afford money to visit a private optometrist or they lack time or health insurance for a visit to a government one.
All of those cases mostly resulting from the case of being employed "off the books".

Only thing is... There is really no need for donated eyeglasses cause Chinese ones are dirt cheap.
Like, plastic sunglasses prices. Often sold side by side on the same stand.

Sure, if you have a rather specific need (different prescription for each eye, or a relatively rare case of visual impairment) you are probably not gonna find what you are looking for "over the counter".
Then again, chances of finding EXACTLY what you need in a "box of donated used glasses" with or without an eyePhone (Get it? EYE-PHONE!) are far lower than that.

Oh... and one more thing.
While there are plenty enough iPhones here (just today I saw one "barely used" 3G 16GB being sold for ~320$) - ALL of them are jailbroken.
Also, you can forget using the app store directly from it even if you have somehow gotten your hands on an actual "virgin" iPhone.
Cause even if your iPhone is perfectly legal, with no cracking/jailbreaking attached - your money is no good. [economist.com]
So, that "non-optometrist Peace Corps kid" should better get all his app-needs before going on his "mission of mercy".
If any of those apps need to "call home", well... sucks to be him in the "developing world".

Again, this is one of those inventions that are pitched by people who have either never been outside of a developed "1st world" country, OR who have only ever been to some village in the middle of the African jungle so they base their understanding of every "developing country" on that one experience or on what they see on CNN. Or in the movies.
Invention is then being pitched as intended for developing countries - where in reality there is no demand or need for it.
On the other hand, hypochondriacs and "I_am_my_own_wikipedia-diagnostician"-people will probably love it.

Re:Which developing world? (1)

The Tyler (998004) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786598)

Or rather than trying to get a smartphone out into a developing country, why now just send some glasses? [gv2020.org]

Re:Which developing world? (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786864)

My thoughts:

What is the expense of those self correcting glasses? You can make basic non-adjusting glasses extremely cheap if you're willing to. I'm willing to bet that those 'self adjusting' ones are a lot more expensive per set.
What is the durability?

With the app and a good smartphone, it sounds like a volunteer would be able to get an actual prescription out of the screening, perhaps so far as to simply pull the common prescription out of a box($2 lens going into a predetermined frame) vs a $100 adjustable set.

Re:Which developing world? (1)

johncadengo (940343) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787004)

My thoughts:

How many of these people who wear the self-adjusting glasses mis-prescribe themselves and end up straining their eyes or making their vision worse?

Re:Which developing world? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787068)

About the same number that buy $20 reading glasses from Wal-Mart at the wrong strength.

Re:Which developing world? (1)

The Tyler (998004) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787016)

I'm not sure about the durability, but from the website:

The current cost for a single pair of adjustable glasses is approximately $19. With increased mass production and emerging technology enabling delivery by anyone with minimal training, the cost per unit will significantly decrease.

So premade glasses and the smartphone app would be cheaper currently, but if the technology becomes popular, this may be cheaper.

So.... (4, Insightful)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786508)

This is great for countries that lack opticians with basic equiptment yet somehow have lots of people with large screened smartphones?

Re:So.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786538)

A $700 smartphone with simple operating instructions is cheaper than a $10000 piece of optician equipment, never mind the lack of a trained optician to operate it.

Re:So.... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786548)

Think Doctors Without Borders able to travel to more remote villages without carting along huge pieces of equipment.

This could allow even a doctor in a poor country to provide prescription glasses (through mail order) with a much smaller investment (one smartphone, even without service, and the $2 attachment.)

Re:So.... (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787186)

Wouldn't it be better to actually _correct_ the problem, rather than just diagnose it with an app?

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99838367 [npr.org]

Re:So.... (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787330)

Wouldn't it be better to actually _correct_ the problem, rather than just diagnose it with an app?

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99838367 [npr.org]

It would be. Of course, a doctor with the app and an assortment of premade glasses can correct the vision of several people for the cost of one of those self-adjusting things.

Re:So.... (1)

ntdesign (1229504) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786564)

The test would be administered by an optician or someone else qualified, with a smartphone. It wouldn't be meant for consumers to test their own vision.

Re:So.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786590)

You can shove your qualifications up your ass.

Re:So.... (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786670)

The iPhone has an app for that!

Re:So.... (1)

AJWM (19027) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787706)

The iPhone has an app for that!

Thus making it an eyePhone.

Re:So.... (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786826)

Yeah, we need to make sure they're an optician to run a smart-phone app, because there's so much science in repeatedly asking "Better, or Worse?".

Re:So.... (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787314)

What makes you think doctors use science? I mean best practices are usually determined scientifically, but beyond that...

Re:So.... (1)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786596)

This is great for countries that lack opticians with basic equiptment yet somehow have lots of people with large screened smartphones?

Exactly. I suspect there are far more phones in those areas than expensive optician sets. Despite the lack of cell coverage. Besides, it doesn't have to be a smartphone. This idea and application can be integrated into a lot of other equipment, such as the inexpensive laptops being deployed to the local schools or local clinics.

I also see a marketing opportunity here. Sell the viewfinder for $10 online and then have a website with the application (possible with a subscription fee).

Re:So.... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786938)

It's great in general, not just for developing countries. Eyeglass centers could reduce the number of full tests, only doing a high precision test when a user's score drifts too far.

Also neat was the stuff with the pinhole cameras that use computer aided recognition on the smartphone to count T-cells or whatever else they could make that apparatus do, maybe indicate staph from a throat swab.

Could spawn a whole new generation of medical accessories for smartphones/PCs. Could also spawn a whole new generation of scam devices that do not really work. Or could be squelched by the FDA entirely under the guise of fighting scams. Knock on wood, and hope we figure out how to integrate it in a way that does the most people the most good.

Re:So.... (1)

unkiereamus (1061340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787774)

Could spawn a whole new generation of medical accessories for smartphones/PCs..

I can't find a link to the commercial product off hand, but quite a while ago (in the time frame of tech), there was an EKG unit that was designed to work with Palm pilots (To give you an idea of how long ago this was, I'm relatively certain it was designed to work with Palm IIIs).

Now, I can't directly speak to how accurate it was, since this was well before I got into health care, so I didn't know what I was looking at, but I know a couple of people (One a doctor, the other a NP) who had them and liked them. (They also only did three leads, which are only really useful for diagnosis of arrhythmias, rather than MIs, so they wouldn't have to have had anywhere near the kind of accuracy that a 12-lead has to have.)

Re:So.... (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786994)

Not only would an iPhone 4 be cheaper than the current available equipment, you can also use an iPod touch which cuts the cost even further and more likely to be available.

Re:So.... (1)

ImNotAtWork (1375933) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787142)

http://www.seeingisbelieving.ca/cell/dacca/ [seeingisbelieving.ca] It does not address your large screen smart phone entry but a single cell phone can be the next step up in communication and technology for a community. However, If the community sees an advantage of getting a single smart phone with screen with useful applications then the health of the community will increase, meaning less days sick, unable to see, etc.

Passive Agressive Marketing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786534)

For "developing world" read "we're too shit scared to try this in the domestic market so will run a backdoor field trial and hope it gets enough attention to launch back home". It's the same with gutless politicians and academics. They don't have the balls to take on domestic interests or want to get some brownie points for patronising the poor. Take a look at Microsoft's feeble attempts to capture the mobile phone market or the One Laptop Per Child bollocks. They're all risk averse chicken shit unimaginative patronising wankers.

Re:Passive Agressive Marketing (1)

adamdoyle (1665063) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788102)

For "developing world" read "we're too shit scared to try this in the domestic market so will run a backdoor field trial and hope it gets enough attention to launch back home". It's the same with gutless politicians and academics. They don't have the balls to take on domestic interests or want to get some brownie points for patronising the poor. Take a look at Microsoft's feeble attempts to capture the mobile phone market or the One Laptop Per Child bollocks. They're all risk averse chicken shit unimaginative patronising wankers.

Yeah! How dare they try and help the poor in third world countries!

And an Iphone is easier to get? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786542)

Really wouldn't be easier to get real optical equipment? Sure maybe its a bit more expensive, but if you are heading to third world countries, being able to bring such things would probably be trivial for anyone who knew what they were doing.

Re:And an Iphone is easier to get? (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787358)

Really wouldn't be easier to get real optical equipment?

Are you serious? No, not by a long shot.

Re:And an Iphone is easier to get? (2, Insightful)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787628)

Yea, easier...

Lets bring heavy, delicate equipment out to a harsh environment that in all likelyhood lacks either repair parts or appropriate tools, and spend a fortune in time and energy moving the fucker around.

There's a cheap set of optics for that (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789090)

I suspect that the cost of optical equipment required to reach the level of accuracy and durability of this app, the phone, and its $2 adapter, is much less than the professional equipment opticians currently use.

My droid has a nice camera but you wouldn't expect a professional photographer to use one as his primary tool. I suspect this scenario is similar.

Re:And an Iphone is easier to get? (3, Informative)

unkiereamus (1061340) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787698)

It's not even CLOSE to trivial to bring in expensive and bulky equipment to the third world.

I live and volunteer in Honduras, and when one of the projects I work with needs something, one of the primary constraints is how do we get it here. Any piece of equipment that can do the same job and can be brought in with airline luggage will ALWAYS be preferable to something that have to be shipped.

A couple of examples: Someone was kind enough to donate 20 complete new computes (monitor, keyboard etc) to one of the schools I work with. They even paid for shipping it down here. This was a year and a half ago, the container they came in is still sitting at the port it came in to, we could never get customs to clear the shipment. (The general assumption is that they were stolen and customs won't clear it so we don't find out.)

Second example: The medevac service I work with has a Sikorsky S62A, one of very few in the world that still fly. They needed a couple of brackets for the steps, nothing fancy, total cost when new: about 15 bucks, but it's not something you can go down and pick up at the corner store. The owners of the helicopter had a few of them in Australia that they picked up surplus off the USCG when they retired the fleet. So the service paid to have them shipped in, total cost counting shipping and customs: just under 1000USD.

The point I'm trying to make here is that the third world just doesn't work anything close to they way you think it does. If, for whatever reason I needed to bring in equipment to fit people for lenses, and I had the option of a donated piece of professional equipment vs a iPhone that I had to raise money for, I'd pick the iPhone every time.

Need some help? (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788646)

If you think slashdotting the Honduran ambassador with some "please help to get this aid shipment cleared" emails might help with that container of computers, provide some more details. To me, it sorta seems like someone in that customs area has his hand out for a "consultation and redtape/paperwork" fee to get it through.

"Developed world" could use this too! (3, Interesting)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786546)

Great idea for the developed world too.

I'd like an app like that for Linux so people can test their vision at home, multiple times, and optimize prescriptions for different distances (for example, close work like soldering).

With the availability of an eye test app, people who know their eye health is good can refine their prescription cheaply (buying online instead of getting ass-raped for the same lens/frame combo locally) and save playing eye test/prescription/purchase roulette.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786772)

Here in the developed world, this $2 device will cost $1000, because it will be classified as a medical device and thus require lots of testing to satisfy the FDA, and kickbacks to keep the opticians from trying to ban it due to it stealing their jobs.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786998)

Here in the developed world, this $2 device will cost $1000, because it will be classified as a medical device and thus require lots of testing to satisfy the FDA, and kickbacks to keep the opticians from trying to ban it due to it stealing their jobs.

So just call it a "health supplement" and you'll be good to go.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787056)

Don't forget to make claims about this health supplement also helping to reduce the possibility colic, nausea, bad breath, and high blood pressure.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787384)

Here in the developed world, this $2 device will cost $1000, because it will be classified as a medical device and thus require lots of testing to satisfy the FDA, and kickbacks to keep the opticians from trying to ban it due to it stealing their jobs.

3/10 -- almost plausible if you ignore the vast number of cheap medical devices already on the market for OTC use, also, a little too light on the tinfoil/conspiracy angle

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

foobsr (693224) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786804)

The Freiburg Vision Test (‘FrACT’) may be a start.

Quote: "The “Freiburg Vision Test” encompasses the “Freiburg Visual Acuity & Contrast Test” (FrACT) and Vernier Test to assess acuity and other visual functions. It is a free computer program that uses psychometric methods combined with anti-aliasing and dithering to provide automated, self-paced measurement of visual acuity (Bach 1996), contrast sensitivity and vernier acuity ..."

http://www.michaelbach.de/fract/index.html [michaelbach.de]

CC.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786904)

Too bad he doesn't provide source.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786946)

Unfortunately here in the US this would require a change to the law the healthcare industry bought that says you can't buy contacts or prescription glasses without a recent (within one year) prescription from an optometrist. Both contacts and prescription eyeglasses are classified as "medical devices".

I've had the *exact* same prescription for 15 years (I have the slightest astigmatism in my right eye, I only glasses for coding to avoid eye strain). If I lose or break my glasses, I can't just go get another pair - I have to go get an eye exam. Same thing with a contact (yup, I only need one).

I went recently because I wanted to try a contact again ... The exam cost $100 out of pocket ($20 co-pay + $80 extra for contacts that insurance doesn't cover) then an additional $200 billed to my insurance. To tell me what I already knew. It's quite a racket.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787106)

I had this experience too, and it pissed me off -- even more so since I know enough optics to test my eyes myself (for garden-variety myopia). Do you have a citation for the law?

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787160)

The classification as "medical devices" by the FDA is what attaches the requirement of a prescription.

A quick google brought this up: http://medgadget.com/archives/2005/08/contact_lenses_1.html [medgadget.com]

So ... since 2005 this has been the case for contacts.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787198)

> Unfortunately here in the US this would require a change to the law the
> healthcare industry bought...

The industry would love to be able to sell you glasses over the counter (or over the Web). You wanted "regulation" and "oversight". You got it.

Last time I needed new glasses I went to America's Best and got two pairs plus an exam for $70.

buy your glasses over the web, moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32789012)

WTF you talking about? Go to glassyeyes.com. I bought my formerly $800 pair of titanium bendy frame blended bifocals for $60 from zennioptical.com. And for the first time in my life, I had an accurately filled prescription - fucking opticians had never got the segment height right.

Where do you slashtards come from?

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787210)

"Unfortunately here in the US this would require a change to the law the healthcare industry bought that says you can't buy contacts or prescription glasses without a recent (within one year) prescription from an optometrist. Both contacts and prescription eyeglasses are classified as "medical devices"... It's quite a racket."

Fuck the law, just buy online and lie about the prescription. I'll lie to anyone who obstructs me for no good reason. I don't owe human obstacles anything. They can cram their scam where the sun doesn't shine.

Another scam is the restriction on getting "medical" oxygen without a prescription, yet the same (yes, I checked thoroughly) oxygen is sold for welding (and is often used by general aviation flyers and mixed-gas divers). I already use medical cylinders (filled off my large cylinder using a transfill adapter) to feed my mobile cutting torch, and if I ever have the need the same cylinders will feed me.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787236)

The problem with that idea, is without the visit to the optometrist, serious problems may go undiscovered.

Sudden changes to your vision may be a sign of serious condition, and a visit to a medical professional is in order.

So I could see access to a device like this being restricted, regulated, or limited (to licensed professionals) on that basis.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32787278)

People without insurance in The United States are essentially at 3rd world level, a doctors visit would result in the rent not being paid and no food on the table.
Yes it is THAT bad in The United States, most of it is actually 3rd world with small pockets at 1st world level.

This device just needs to be made and sold as something else, perhaps a 'microscope' when combined with the cellphone camera.
Have an adjustment that would allow correction for your vision and show those results as the microscope calibration.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787440)

Exactly.

People don't go to the optometrist because they don't want to see better or think they don't need it, they don't go because without insurance they can't afford it.

Even while being in the class in the US that can afford insurance, the difference in what it costs and what it covers compared to 15 years ago is really quite staggering.

15 years ago I paid something like $20 a month (for just myself) and had almost no out of pocket expenses. I have a plate and 5 screws holding my radius together, and it cost me like $100.

Now? My wife and I pay close to $300 (pre-tax) but even a minor usage outside of the basic doctor-visit co-pay would end up being at least a grand out of our pocket - and that's considered "good" coverage these days. Break an arm? Yeah, that's going to cost you. Even people who *have* insurance struggle to pay their medical bills these days.

HMO vs Real Insurance (1)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787770)

While HMO plans are a choice people should be able to make, you should look into actual high deductible insurance. Our family of 6 pays $500/mo with a $5500/yr deductible. We pay "out of pocket" by depositing the money into a Health Savings Account (HSA) first, and paying from that. This deducts the expense on the same line as IRA contributions. Fully funding the HSA for the deductible, plus the premiums, is about the cost of HMO coverage with the same exclusions and tax benefits. BUT, if we don't spend the entire deductible from the HSA, the balance stays in the account which can be used for non-covered expenses (e.g. our plan doesn't cover dental) or saved for retirement (it can be used like an IRA after retirement age). Notice that if you hit the deductible (which our daughter did last year by breaking two fingers), your total premium plus "out of pocket" expense is about the same as HMO premiums.

One nasty aspect of the current Obamacare bill is phasing out HSA accounts by 2015 ("forcing" people to buy HMO coverage similarly to how people are "forced" to use public schools because of the tax induced expense of private school).

Re:HMO vs Real Insurance (1)

BrianRoach (614397) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787856)

When I was running my own business and paying out of pocket I did exactly that, carried a $5k/year deductible.

My point, however, was that we're rapidly trending toward that as the norm even with group plans as our healthcare costs spiral out of control.

When you're billed $15k to fix a compound fracture and your insurance is 80/20 up to $X ... you're right there. I believe the watered down "reform" even guarantees that, putting yearly out-of-pocket maxes right around that level in the "basic" package which sadly, most Americans will not be able to cover in the case of having a significant health problem / accident.

The new job I'm starting actually has good insurance at $125/mo for both of us. But that's somewhat of a rarity these days.

Re:"Developed world" could use this too! (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787498)

The problem with that idea, is without the visit to the optometrist, serious problems may go undiscovered.

Sudden changes to your vision may be a sign of serious condition, and a visit to a medical professional is in order.

And for not so sudden changes? You know the perfectly ordinary, gradual changes that come with age?

Without a visit to the optometrist, serious problems may go undiscovered. So instead we have the current situation, where due to the laws and the cost, serious problems go undiscovered, and minor problems don't get fixed either, since people who can't afford to don't go to the optometrist either way, so the only change here is they don't get anything fixed at all.

So I could see access to a device like this being restricted, regulated, or limited (to licensed professionals) on that basis.

If and only if the government is then picking up the tab for the bill, sure. However, in a country without universal health care, this kind of law does more harm than good. It just leaves people without treatment for minor things they could otherwise take care of themselves. If you take the ability to fix it out of people's hands, you need to take the need to pay someone else to fix it away too. If you aren't going to pick up the tab, you need to let people do it themselves as best they can.

By outlawing less than ideal treatment, you're leaving a lot of people with the only remaining option: no treatment at all. You've made the perfect the enemy of the good.

Not just great for developing countries (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786588)

Not only is it great for developing countries. It's great for those of us in countries like the USA, Canada, Easter Europe, and many other places. Health care costs are increasing. It's about time we came up with some ways to make health care cheaper. My province spends half of it's revenue on health care. I would love for them to start using ideas like this to make it possible for lower skilled people who demand less money to give medical care in simple cases such as prescribing glasses, so that doctor's have more time for real important stuff and also so that health care costs would go down. With all the advancements in science it seems that health care is just getting more and more expensive. Really, we should be using those advancements to make it cheap and accessible to all.

Re:Not just great for developing countries (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786980)

Just try buying glasses by telling them what your phone prescription is.. I doubt they will do it.

Re:Not just great for developing countries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32787110)

In Canada you can walk in and buy what ever type of lenses you want. However it most likely wouldn't be tax deductable (if audited) and your medical plan wouldn't reimburse you without a board certified prescription.

Re:Not just great for developing countries (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787700)

But I'm sure your smartphone taking your prescription, uploading the data to your Google Health account, and having Costco/Walmart make the glasses at their facility and overnight them to you isn't as far off as you'd think.

Re:Not just great for developing countries (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787120)

Those of us?

Those of us, who sit at a monitor all day, get free yearly eye tests in the UK.

Re:Not just great for developing countries (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787400)

It's great for those of us in countries like the USA, Canada, Easter Europe

It's really not needed in Easter Europe; they all have good eyesight, what with being bunnies... who eat lots of carrots... which are good for your eyes...

I'll show myself out.

Re:Not just great for developing countries (1)

wayward_bruce (988607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788266)

I'm not quite sure what connection exists between Eastern Europe and "developing world with no experienced opticians nor diagnostic equipment", but I'll let it pass.

Well I dunno about Canada (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789126)

But in the US, eye tests aren't expensive. Health insurance does not cover corrective optics normally. Yo either have to get separate insurance, or pay yourself. The cost of the separate insurance generally works out to the same cost you'd pay yourself, just spread out. The most expensive you usually see is around $100 and that's at a private optician's office and is usually quite a comprehensive test. $50 is not that hard to find at chain locations.

The expensive part of corrective optics is not the test, it is the optics themselves. If you want light, thin, glasses with high end anti-glare and so on and so forth you can spend $500 no sweat.

I'm not disagreeing about health care costs, but vision isn't one of the expensive ones, at least not an annual eye check (and let's face it, most of us are lazy enough to not do one unless we see the need).

next up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786620)

Next up, they can tackle basic web design! There's really no reason to stick a 3000 pixel wide image of a group shot onto the page.

That said, this is really cool. This is exactly how technology should be used to help out the developing world.

Re:next up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786684)

Jesus! I just realized that all the images on that page are like 6000 and 7000 pixels tall. I only focused on the group shot because that's the one I noticed still loading when I was looking over the page.

actual innovation (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786632)

now that is really really cool - much more impressive to me than a patent on a battery holder. Kudos to the developers, I hope they make something of it !

Cartridge alignment on inkjet printer? (1)

perpenso (1613749) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786850)

now that is really really cool - much more impressive to me than a patent on a battery holder. Kudos to the developers, I hope they make something of it !

Agreed, definitely cool, but it does sound a little like cartridge alignment on inkjet printer.

--
Perpenso Calc [perpenso.com] for iPhone. Classic Scientific and HEX functionality plus RPN, fractions, complex numbers, dotted quads, 32/64-bit signed/unsigned bitwise operations, UTF-8, IEEE FP decode, and RGB decode with color preview.

Re:Cartridge alignment on inkjet printer? (2, Funny)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786976)

First, align your thermal laser etcher. Then align your eyeball. Then insert plastic sheet and print your eyeglasses. Do not operate with cover open!

Magnify signal strength view? (0, Flamebait)

MalHavoc (590724) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786634)

Maybe this app can help clear up Apple's issue with poor signal strength [slashdot.org] on their phone. Can't see how many bars you have left? Maybe you need a $2 optical adapter. And look at that -- we've got them for sale in the app store!

Quite practical even for the developed world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786642)

Considering that we're all sitting in front of computer screens for 90% of our non-asleep time, and are thus growing into near-sightedness (the long-term adaptation algorithm used for eye growth is adjusting to what it's used for - eyes would never grow to the correct size without any feedback control - though not everyone believes...), it might be quite a handy device to regularly re-check ones own eyes.

I want one.

It's sufficiently precise for that purpose. Final check before buying new glasses to be done by Zeiss' refractometric toy (measures 0.01 diopters, and higher orders of errors than just cylindrical/spherical. Plus, you can glasses that correct them for just based price + 100).

but Nexus ones and iPhone 4s grow on trees. (1)

Voxol (32200) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786652)

"This could have broad application in the developing world, where experienced opticians and diagnostic equipment are hard to come by"

but Nexus ones and iPhone 4s grow on trees.

Re:but Nexus ones and iPhone 4s grow on trees. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786816)

but Nexus ones and iPhone 4s grow on trees.

Are you seriously this dense? I can go down to the mall or Best Buy and walk out with one for a few hundred bucks. What's it take to get the optician's equipment?

Re:but Nexus ones and iPhone 4s grow on trees. (1)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787074)

He's not dense, he just wants to be witty and smug.

Much cheaper and easier method already around (1)

Levocmk1 (1363901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786776)

Josh Silver already has a better way to correct vision, and at a much cheaper cost too. No need for an optometrist either.
Movie demonstration: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/josh_silver_demos_adjustable_liquid_filled_eyeglasses.html [ted.com]
Text Article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=adjustable-eyeglasses-poor [scientificamerican.com]

Re:Much cheaper and easier method already around (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786874)

That's awesome! What I wouldn't give for a pair of the eyeglasses-mounted loupes like dentists/surgeons wear that could do that.

Re:Much cheaper and easier method already around (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787470)

As has been pointed out already: No.

You can have a $100 set of adjustable glasses or you can have one guy with this app and a box full of $2 perscription glasses that he can then match to everybody in line.

Could be used to test vision for driving (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786800)

This will be great to be sure my vision is good while driving. Don't worry, I can multitask.

What would be nice.. (1)

n1hilist (997601) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786852)

If you could tie this in with your OS with some useful tools so that it could make a useful profile for your desktop environment based on your visual acuity.

I'm legally blind myself (-23 diopters in both eyes) and I also sometimes help visually impaired kids customise their desktops for better use.

Obviously there's no one size fits all approach and configuring DPI, colour etc; in a UI is a very personal thing but I'm sure this could be of use for PCs and even cellphone user interfaces.

Mod parent up. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787156)

That's an excellent idea.

Wondering why, is there an app for that? (1)

Britz (170620) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786856)

Come on. How many times do you need to check your eyes. And shouldn't somebody do this that has an idea of what they are doing?

Re:Wondering why, is there an app for that? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786954)

Right. Far better that millions have no access to such a test at all than that people be given the opportunity to decide for themselves whether or not they can handle it.

Self-medication (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787230)

Come on. How many times do you need to check your eyes. And shouldn't somebody do this that has an idea of what they are doing?

That's a fair question to ask.

Particularly for the very young or very old, or anyone with a complex medical history, a diabetic, for example.

When I'm done with the iPhone... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786876)

...can I sell it for most of what I'd pay for it? Otherwise I'm better of going to America's Best and getting an exam plus two pairs of glasses for $70.

This might actually be interesting if it worked on a computers other than "smartphones" and required no special device.

PUB CRAWL! (2, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786906)

Repeating this with bars in different locations

... won't your vision be affected by all the booze?

and orientations

... straight, gay, leather fetish, republican ...

I thought Apple wouldn't approve stuff like that?

Re:PUB CRAWL! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32787036)

... straight, gay, leather fetish, republican ...

I thought Apple wouldn't approve stuff like that?

Straight, gay and leather fetish, sure. Republican, NEVER!!!

Cost effective? (1)

josath (460165) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786996)

How cost effective is this? Sure it's only a $2 adapter, but then you need a $400-$700 phone to attach it to (that's the actual price of the hardware mentioned, when not subsidized by a long term monthly contract, which costs even more). Surely for $400 someone could build a standalone vision testing device that is more accurate?

Re:Cost effective? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32788782)

With a smartphone, other adapters could be used for other diagnostic tests. One smartphone with ten $2 to $20 sensors, versus ten $400 single-purpose devices? And who said everyone would buy these? One per 50 families would be more than enough.

The smartphone can be used to place the order for correctives (spectacles, drugs) too. And to contact a trained specialist in New Delhi or Nairobi if the app decides your case is beyond it. If your single-purpose device can do that, it's just a locked-down smartphone.

Engage brain. There is a revolution coming in health (and education), but it's coming to developing countries. You in the US will be stuck with the traditional high-cost, low-return model, because of rent-seeking insurance companies (and an entrenched education system).

Will insurance cover it? (1)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787108)

Can I get my health insurance to buy me a shiny new 4g Iphone?

Useless in the US thanks to optometrist lobbying (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32787152)

It's no longer possible to get glasses/contacts without a prescription made in the past 12 months. This law went into effect 6 or 7 years ago, after online contact lens stores started appearing in large numbers. Optometrists make a big profit by forcing people to get eye exams once per year in order to get their prescriptions filled. Until that gets rolled back, it doesn't matter whether people can test themselves at home.

But it does sound like a big win for the developing world.

Please proceed (1)

estestvoispytatel (1091583) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787252)

Clever idea, also they can made use of built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes for measuring of pulse and blood pressure (with some pump). I hope in future smartphones will be equipped (strictly for usability purposes) with cheap thermometers and maybe even sensors for galvanic skin response metering.

Re:Please proceed (2, Funny)

estestvoispytatel (1091583) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787376)

Oh wait, you have one with the galvanic skin response metering. Just use some nice phone with two well placed antennas, short them with the patient's bare skin and do the math on the signal's drop.

As easy as that? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787392)

Strange, I didn't know it would be so easy to check for oneself like that. It makes me wonder what else can be done without the need to visit a health specialist.

Re:As easy as that? (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787732)

Give the proper low-power laser emitter and electronics, you could probably not only replace an auto-refractor (the device you look through to see an image go from blurry to clear; it's using infrared to determine your prescription, which the optometrist uses to double-check his work) but also the Wavefront system:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LASIK#Wavefront-guided_LASIK [wikipedia.org]

Ignore the part about LASIK. Wavefront is the brand name of the system used to map your cornea and is fed to the eximer laser to do the actual work.

Wonderful news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32787684)

Going to the "eye doctor" is so damn expensive.

Oblig Picard (1)

safetyinnumbers (1770570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787892)

"I see FOUR BARS!"

(I had a hard time deciding whether to post this in the iPhone signal strength thread instead, but it's probably already been done.)

Re:Oblig Picard (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788010)

Before or after the next iPhone update?

I wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32788052)

Yeah but is there a Sub for that? mmm...

Optics question (1)

Something Witty Here (906670) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789110)

For the optical wizards out there, what would it take to make
eyeglasses that can correct extreme myopia without changing
the magnification? Would a multiple element lens be able to
do this?

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99838367 [npr.org]
Adjustable power lenses for $19 ? What's the catch?
More distortion or other optical problem? Are they fragile
or otherwise not very durable? These sound wonderful as
an alternative to bifocals/trifocals/etc. Need to look
at something X distance away? Just adjust your glasses
as needed.

> The classification as "medical devices" by the FDA is what
> attaches the requirement of a prescription.

Why aren't drugstore reading glasses classified as "medical devices"?
If you are slightly far-sighted you can get 3 pairs for $10 and
the quality is surprising decent. If you are near-sighted you
have to spend hundreds of dollars.

The eyephone app thingy sounds useful, (was planning on actually
reading TFA ( *gasp* ), but it crashed my browser) but will it
check your eyes for health problems? Of course none of my eye
doctors ever warned me that I was at high risk for retinal
detachment, so maybe the eyephone app would have been just as good?
GRUMBLE

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