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Diagnosing eye problems early

(Posted June 2022) It is extremely challenging to detect eye problems in very young children. This is because most eye exams require answering questions like: “Can you read the next row?” or “Which way is the arrow pointing?” Babies obviously can’t do that.

And yet, it is vital to diagnose ocular problems early.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 19 million visually impaired children worldwide. This can have serious consequences. Untreated visual ailments can easily deteriorate into permanent blindness. And in the developing world, 60% of children who go blind at an early age die within one year.

Most countries have a very limited supply of pediatric ophthalmologists. The shortage is particularly acute in poorer parts of the world. This makes it even more challenging to identify in a timely manner children who need treatment.

In Spain, a startup launched by Dr. Victoria Pueyo, DIVE-Medical, has worked with Huawei engineers to create an application called Track.AI. Powered by smartphone AI chips, the app analyzes young children’s eye movements as they watch cartoons. It can help diagnose visual impairments in babies as young as six months old.

The equipment is portable, and any non-trained professional can crunch the data on their phone, without needing even access to a wireless network or Wi-Fi signal. With Track.Ai, children who are at risk of developing vision problems can be referred to an eye specialist for treatment.

See how Track.AI works in this short video made by The Economist Group in 2020.