When looking directly at an object, an individual’s peripheral vision will appear blurry in order to allow the eye to properly focus. The part of the retina that focuses on the object is called the macula, and changes in the macula will directly affect a person’s eyesight. For optometrists to examine the macula during a comprehensive eye examination, it has been necessary to artificially dilate patients’ pupils for a clear look. Pupil dilation can be uncomfortable, and may require the use of bulky equipment. Researchers at Rice University have developed an alternative process for examining the macula.
The device Rice researchers have developed, called MobileVision, looks almost like an upside-down microscope. The patient looks into the device and is told to focus on a red circle, which moves freely. The dark circle encourages the pupil to dilate naturally as the eye attempts to focus. When the circle aligns perfectly with the patient’s eye, it appears brightest, and the patient presses a button that moves the circle out of the way. With the circle gone, MobileVision’s camera can see into the eye, and has a few hundred milliseconds to take as many photos as it can before the pupil constricts again.
The photos are transferred to a computer, which uses an algorithm called “lucky imaging” to combine the images and enhance the features that appear. Researchers hope to make MobileVision accessible to patients through their cell phones, which would take video and send it to optometrists for analysis. Ideally, doctors in clinics around the world will be able to administer comprehensive eye examinations without inconveniencing their patients.
Careful examination of the macula can show early stages of diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma, and other common conditions, so it is important to include the back of a patient’s eye during an exam. With MobileVision, these crucial examinations can be administered without hindering a patient’s ability to drive and work.