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The World Health Organisation estimates that there are 39 million people suffering from blindness in the world. An estimated 80% of these people are thought to have blindness that could be avoided if treatment is administered. Most of these people reside in third world countries. To help identify visual impairments and warn people Peek Vision has developed Peek Retina, a device that connects to smartphone cameras and recognizes defects in the retina.
It all started when Dr Andrew Bastawrous from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine moved to Kenya. He set up high tech equipment to treat patients but found that the treatment wasn’t reaching those that needed it the most because they couldn’t afford it. So he developed PeekRetina with Peek Vision. It’s a clip on costing $5 that modifies a smartphone camera to take high quality photos of the retina.
He estimates that about a 1000 people can be examined in a week by one person with a smartphone. The Photographs (categorized by locations on a map) are uploaded to a server that is accessible to doctors around the world. Then doctors contact tribal leaders near those places to inform them that treatment is on the way.
Cataracts, Glaucoma and even diseases like Malaria can be diagnosed from an examination of the retina. The device has been tested for months in Botswana, Mali and Kenya and is currently being funded through a campaign on Indiegogo.
Dr Bastawrous, in a TED Talk he delivered, said that some patients, like one Mama Wangari, had been blind for twenty years and through treatment costing $40, was able to see her grandchildren for the first time. His final worlds were, “I think it says a lot about us as a human race if we’ve developed cures and we don’t deliver them…but now we can.”
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