Somervillee, MA-based EyeNetra has announced they have raised $1 million of a potential $1.2 million seed round to continue development of their revolutionary $2 smartphone attachment which can be used by anyone to self-diagnose vision impairment, get a prescription for eyeglasses, and connect directly to a vision professional.
I had a chance to test the EyeNetra device, knowing I have better than 20/20 vision and I can say it was without question a jaw-dropping experience.
I held the device to my eye and looked into what reminded me of a kaleidoscope, with two circles, one green and one red, displayed. I simply had to use a control pad very similar to the d-pad on a video game controller to align the two circles until they were just touching.
Sure enough in both of my eyes I needed to make almost no adjustment to see the two circles touching, so the device accurately diagnosed my vision to be without refractive error.
I also interviewed company CEO David Schafran, who at the time told me the company was less than two months old and they were just getting their feet under themselves. It seems. though, that the team has finally found their stride and will likely accelerate their product development and pilot studies in the coming months now that they have some capital behind them.
According to the EyeNetra’s website, the standard method for diagnosing refractive eye conditions is the Shack-Hartman device, which shines a laser into the patient’s eye and measures the refracted light with a wavefront sensor. The company’s Near Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment (NETRA) is the inverse of a Shack-Hartman device.
A patient looks at a cell phone screen through a simple pinhole array at a very close range and aligns the displayed patterns.
Since light from these patterns go through different regions of the visual system, the act of aligning them gives a measure of the optical distortions of those regions and the required refractive correction is computed.
The company has also introduced a new method to assess cataracts in the human eye by crafting an optical solution that measures the perceptual impact of forward scattering on the subject’s view known as CATRA. Current solutions rely on highly-trained clinicians to check for the back scattering of light on the eye lens. Close-range modified 3D displays create collimated beams of light to scan through sub-apertures, scattering light as it strikes a cataract.
User feedback generates, for the first time, quantitative maps for opacity, attenuation, contrast and local point spread functions. As EyeNetra points out, cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and one of the most prevalent diseases known to man. The driving force behind this second product is to allow a “general audience” to operate a portable, light-field display to gain meaningful understanding of their cataracts. Compiled maps simulate a cataract-affected view of an individual, offering a unique approach for capturing and sharing data for screening, diagnostic, and clinical analysis.
Schafran hinted to me when we spoke that his company’s intention is to empower entrepreneurs with the device and allow them to distribute eye glasses without a true “store” but complete diagnostic capability. This could create an additional value proposition via the creation of new jobs and small businesses, which I envision could be like kiosks seen in malls and airports through the world.
The company has faired well at developer challenges, winning first place at the 2010 Vodafone America's Foundation Wireless Innovation Project, and coming out on top in the Seed Stage at the 2011 DCtoVC Challenge hosted by Morgenthaler Ventures. They have also been awarded a silver medal at the 2012 Edison Awards, and numerous grants from leading technology innovators such as Google and NASA.
Below you can watch the company's presentation from the finals of the 2011 DCtoVC Challenge.