It was only a matter of time before smartphones made the transition from communication device to full blown Star Trek tricorder. And with the development of Peek (an acronym for Portable Eye Examination Kit), that transition is nearly complete.
Peek is a project spearheaded by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in partnership with several other medical organisations that hopes to bring better medical care to the third world. It’s currently being tested on 5000 people in Kenya who might not otherwise have access to an eye doctor, and it’s damn close to providing all of the same service. The app uses the smartphone’s camera to scan the eye for cataracts and activates the camera flash to scan the back of the eye for disease. It also employs a shrinking letter on the screen to conduct eye exams in the field. Examiners keep track of the patients by storing their records on the phone, where the GPS chip also logs their location.
The product is still in the trial stages, but things look promising. The research team says that results of an on-going study on the efficacy of Peek’s eye test have been encouraging, and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness calls the app “a huge game changer”. You can try it yourself by contacting the Peek team directly. Or, if you’re really interested, you could probably join the small army they hope to deploy around the developing world.
The smartphone-driven medicine doesn’t stop with the eyes though. In recent years, we’ve seen apps come out that can do everything from scan your body for skin cancer to monitor your heart rate to check your ears for infections. Don’t get carried away. Even though your phone now does a lot of things that your doctor does, your phone is not your doctor. But in many parts of the world, it’s the next-best thing. [BBC]