Crowdsourcing our way to better eye care

retina-trackerLast week I looked at a venture called Peek Vision, which has developed an add-on for smartphones that allows people to take an incredibly detailed image of their eye.

Such imaging normally requires expensive and immobile equipment, so is usually far from accessible for people in remote locations.  The hope, therefore, is that the mobile based service will help to prevent many of the avoidable descents into blindness that occur around the world.

Getting the crowd involved

Hopefully, projects such as Peek Vision will create a massive surge in optical data, and My Retina Tracker hopes to make the most of it.

“My Retina Tracker is a free online registry provided by the Foundation Fighting Blindness as part of its mission to drive the research that will provide preventions, treatments and cures for people affected by retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, Usher syndrome and the entire spectrum of inherited retinal degenerative diseases,” the company says.

The site hopes to collect as much data as possible, therefore shedding fresh light on conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, which is a rare genetic disease that kills cells inside the eye.  Its cause is largely unknown, and the rarity of the disease makes gathering patient data difficult.

The site was first launched last year by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and it has already gained several thousand participants.  That is a figure they hope to boost significantly over the coming year however.

Images and the crowd

We’ve seen similar trends emerge in other fields.  For instance, California based start-up Planet Labs has developed imaging technology that allows for easier and more cost effective space based images to be taken.

Their Dove satellites are a fraction of the size of normal imaging satellites, and can therefore be launched in swarms, which allows for richer and cheaper imaging of the earth.

This has a number of useful applications, not least of which is tackling deforestation.  I wrote recently about Orbital Insight, who take a big data approach to the task.

They’re taking satellite images of forestation around the world and using nifty AI algorithms to identify threatened areas before potential deforestation can take place.

It works by keeping an eye out for suspicious changes, such as new road building around forests for instance.  Once such changes have been spotted, an alert is published on the Global Forest Watch website, who are partnering with Orbital Insight.

Planet Labs are working with Orbital Insight to ensure they get as much data to work with as possible, with the partnership having a significant impact on attempts to tackle deforestation.

These are just two examples of how cheap and effective imaging is being matched up with either crowd based or big data based analysis to do cool things.  Do you have any others?

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3 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing our way to better eye care

  1. Yeah, it seems interesting,eagerly waiting to see that project and expecting to more than expectations. Cause there are so many optometrists are promising for different different things but they actually forget to complete that.I wish you'll complete it anyhow.

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