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November 13, 2017
I have always been fascinated by technological advancement. A continual, often subtle interplay occurs between
technology and its application. The interplay often evolves in unpredictable ways creating never intended and
sometimes massive disruptions. Examples abound. Who would have thought five years ago that clever exploitation of
social media could have an impact on national level elections? Or the spread of Uber creating obvious challenges to
traditional taxi cabs and unanticipated stress to municipalities. Fortunately, the positives far outweigh the
negatives. Few would disagree that the internet through e-commerce, education, and social networking has allowed the
poor in developing countries to improve living standards. Such profound changes to our society will continue to
occur, often in ways that are only obvious after the fact.
To some extent, on a smaller scale, the team at EyeQue are experiencing this effect as we leverage the smartphone
revolution to enhance the eye care industry. By harnessing the powerful built-in capabilities of smartphones EyeQue
has created a business developing vision testing technology previously unavailable to the consumer. The phone
provides the optical, processing, and communication functions that would cost thousands of dollars to build into a
custom device. Based on this powerful idea, we create solutions that are more than two orders of magnitude lower in
cost than custom equivalent devices – not to mention, fully mobile and compact. For example, desktop commercial auto
refractors cost on the order of $10,000. In comparison, our first award-winning product3, the EyeQue Personal Vision
Tracker (PVT), a $30.00 smart phone attachment, to conduct at-home DIY1 refraction tests. People are thrilled when
they can get results for themselves and their family and friends. They get a feeling of enablement and freedom.
We’ve talked to eye care industry experts about the PVT’s accuracy, applicability, and impact. These interactions
often provided new insight into how technology could solve problems or provide new opportunities for the industry.
One common theme we heard over the past year has been around the accelerating myopia epidemic. The world population,
especially children, are experiencing greater levels of myopia (nearsightedness) than ever before. Detecting the
onset of myopia through more frequent visual acuity2 (VA) testing would lead to earlier detection and treatments
which could reduce the long-term damaging effects.
Based on our conversations with eye care professionals and with our customers, we were determined to develop
something mobile, lightweight, scalable and affordable to consumers and to businesses or charities with limited
resources. In addition, we wanted to make sure that kids, the group with perhaps the most to gain from this product,
would use it and would love it.
Beyond screening visual acuity, a solution such as this could also be used to determine how well your eyeglasses or
contacts are performing – something anyone with “failing” glasses can appreciate. It became clear to us that a
reimagined visual acuity test is ripe for the DIY consumer market.
We decided to invest in a binocular platform that would be initially used for visual acuity, but would subsequently
support other vision tests. Developing the binocular platform provides inherent benefits in accuracy and usability
for the visual acuity screener. Further, the investment in such a scalable platform will serve our customers and the
company as we are able to produce more types of vision tests at a rapid pace.
EyeQue’s binocular optical attachment converts the pixel images on the screen, literally 6 inches from the user, into
a virtualized image at infinity, making self-testing easy and accurate. There’s no ambiguity when it comes to
distance – unlike the physical distance required for the traditional wall-chart. Plus, the binocular device allows
one to test single and dual eye performance quickly and without moving the device.
But aren’t there already smartphone apps that test visual acuity? Why develop a hardware attachment? Simply put,
these apps can’t accurately screen distance vision. Visual acuity tests require the user to stand at least 10 feet
away from a wall chart, substantially longer than arm’s length. Since these free apps usually require you to touch
the smartphone screen or use volume controls to run through the test display, taking a test is not a simple solo
effort – unless your arms are at least 6 feet long.
Since we were making a product with kids in mind, we had to think of ways to make the test engaging and easy to use.
This in turn led us to creating a “Kids” mode with gamification and animation, taking us to a place I never imagined
EyeQue would go. Already, the adoption of Seymour, our kid’s host, has inspired many ideas and provided much
appreciated levity in the office.
The software powered test also allows us to randomize the test characters so there is no memorization at play (an
accuracy improvement relevant for all ages!).
Another advantage to developing our solutions using smartphones and cloud-based technologies is the digitizing and
automation of records. Traditional methods, even today in many cases, require optometrists and school nurses, to
capture test results manually and record them into a separate file. Conversely, tests performed on EyeQue screeners
are instantly and securely stored in the EyeQue Cloud, where individuals effortlessly create, access and share their
personal vision histories. This allows anyone to track visual acuity changes over time and have an integrated view
of different types of vision tests.
And because we could, we added a Pupillary Distance (PD) estimator to measure, capture and store your PD, a measure
frequently needed for eyeglass ordering and often omitted from your paper prescription.
We set out to develop a simple way to test visual acuity leveraging smartphones for mobility, convenience, and to
keep costs to the consumer down. In the process, we developed a scalable hardware platform that will return
dividends in terms of speed of future vision test solutions. The company will scale faster and people worldwide will
get access to more at-home solutions sooner. We went beyond developing a simple, accurate testing platform and paid
particular attention to an important audience – kids – reducing the friction parents may face in getting children to
test their vision. And by design, we improved accuracy over traditional methods, something the eye care industry
perhaps hadn’t considered possible.