Last week's NYT's Tech Talk Podcast discussed an new invention out of MIT's Ramesh Raskar's Lab: “Near-Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment” (NETRA).  A refraction is the procedure whereby an ophthalmologist determines one's prescription for glasses.  It can be done manually or can be automated, but it involves multiple lenses and expensive equipment.  It is also a subjective test, relying on a patients responses.  The final result is a prescription for a new pair of glasses.

A phoropter,containing multiple lenses may be used to refract a patient.


An autorefractor may also be used for refracting.

Raskar's Lab is working to simplify the test procedure and lower the
cost. His team developed  the NETRA, which includes a small plastic eyepiece that is clipped
over the front of the screen on a cell phone. The patient looks into a
small lens and uses the arrow keys on the phone to line up parallel
sets of red and green lines in the display. This is repeated several times
for each eye with the lines at different angles. The test takes only a few minutes to complete and provides the eyeglass
prescription for each eye.

Can a person look at a portable
display, click on a few buttons and
recover his refractive condition? 

courtesy of: 

Not only will this technology be a boom for third world countries, where cost constraints dictate access to care, but it may also streamline the way we refract here in the US as well!

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