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EyeNetra clips on to smartphone to test vision

EyeNetra clips on to smartphone to test vision

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2.5 billion people worldwide need eyeglasses but don't have them. A new device for mobile phones offers a cheap and accessible way to conduct eye exams.

Most smartphone users have appreciated the improvements in display technology over the past five years. Sharper screens have ushered in an era of where watching high-definition videos and realistic gameplay on our mobile devices is de rigueur. But there's another little-known benefit: eye care.

Cambridge, Mass.-based company EyeNetra has developed a device that turns your smartphone into eye examination equipment. By leveraging programmable displays with more than 300 dots per inch, the company can project images through the screen and use optics in the device for refraction purposes.

The device clips on to the top of your phone, and looks a bit like the viewfinder on a video camera. The eye test involves peering into the viewfinder and aligning a series of patterns. After taking the test, patients receive eyeglass measurements. EyeNetra also uses cloud computing technology to connect users with local optical shops -- for example, lens and frame manufacturers.

There are 2.4 billion people in the world without eyeglasses whose vision requires them. EyeNetra could effectively provide a cheaper alternative to the autorefractor for those billions in need. What's an autorefractor, you ask? If you wear prescription glasses or contacts, you've probably used one. It's the big, bulky and expensive piece of equipment through which you look while the optometrist asks you whether an image looks better, worse or the same. (They always look equally blurry to me, frankly.)

EyeNetra chief executive David Schafran told me that the technology has lots of potential.

"We've done some early tests and received excellent results, which put us nearly as accurate as the gold standard ways of doing it," he said. "Theoretically, we would be more accurate looking forward."

Now if only they could figure out a way for me to avoid getting my eyes dilated. What bio-tech are you excited about?

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Sumi Das

Chief Correspondent

Chief Correspondent Sumi Das has been a correspondent for SmartPlanet since 2008. Previously, she worked as a correspondent for CNN and MSNBC. Between 1998 and 2003, she was producer and host of "Fresh Gear" on TechTV. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She resides in San Francisco. Disclosure