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Puzzle app will track eye health in space

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A UK health tech company is on a mission to space as part of a new collaboration with a British university.

Researchers at the University of Plymouth will use OKKO Health’s smartphone puzzle app to test eye health and detect early signs of disease in extreme environments, including space.

The app measures vision across multiple dimensions and has been designed to bring eye health monitoring into the home, freeing up clinician time and improving patient accessibility.

It works by tracking which images the user sees and taps on the screen, helping to paint a picture of their eye health.

By testing the app in extreme environments, scientists aim to validate its effectiveness and reliability in particularly unusual conditions.

The researchers will use learnings from how vision responds to microgravity and the visual effects of altered intracranial pressure to better understand, detect and monitor neurological conditions back on earth.

OKKO Health CEO, Stephanie Campbell, told Health Tech World: “[Plymouth researcher] Dr Oehring’s project is about measuring vision in extreme environments, so everything from dusty environments to space.

Stephanie Campbell

“Obviously, in space, astronauts need their vision protected because a lot can go wrong with their eyes, which are windows to the health of the brain.

“And, as life goes on with global warming and other things, our weather environments are going to become more extreme.”

The app has already been tested in the dark depths of a cave, where the conditions mirror those faced by astronauts in space, such as confinement and limited equipment.

The setting enabled researchers to test the app’s robustness and effectiveness in measuring visual perception in extreme environments.

OKKO Health founder Campbell is an optometrist by background, having worked in a hospital while undertaking her PhD in eye disease detection.

It was during this time that she began thinking about how vision could be monitored more effectively.

The researcher said: “I realised that we needed to make vision testing more accessible so it was easier for people with learning disabilities and [children], because our eye chart relies on people knowing their letters.

“And working at a hospital, I realised that there was a lot of information often missing from records. I thought, why can’t this be generated at home?

“Hospital specialists spend most of their time monitoring disease rather than treating it.

“If we can move that monitoring outside of the hospital and into the home, that frees up more time to help patients who actually need to be seen.”

The OKKO Health team is now developing an AI algorithm to enable people with macular degeneration to track their eye health from home without a clinician.

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