Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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$5000 IDEAS Award Sponsored by Lemelson-MIT Program


Competition Year: 2010

Innovative, mobile system for diagnosing refractive eye conditions for under $1 using cell phones.

Health and Medical

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Our Pitch

Over 153 million people around the world suffer from uncorrected refractive vision problems and 87% of them - 133.11 million people - reside in developing nations. The problem leads to a tremendous loss in productivity up to $133 billion which exceeds the annual GDP of 46 of the 52 African countries.

Our team developed an eye care technology that allows for the early, extremely low-cost, mobile, fast, and automated diagnosis of the most common refractive eye disorders: myopia (nearsightedness), hypermetropia (farsightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia (age-related). The technology, invented in the Camera Culture group at MIT Media Lab, consists of an Android-based app and a passive optical phase plate on top of the cell phone display. The patient looks in close range and aligns image patterns. The lens prescription is computed automatically based on the displacement needed in the alignment task. The tasks takes less than 2 min. Our system can greatly scale the diagnostic services available in developing countries and help to significantly improve the quality of life for those suffering from these conditions.

Our partner, the Himalayan Cataract Project is an internationally respected eye health organization that has been helping to solve refractive vision problems since 1994. We will diagnose up to 3500 people in Mwandama, Malawi, significantly improving their quality of life.

More Info on the research project


Reach 3,500 people in the first year, which represents only 1.2% of individuals suffering from undiagnosed refractive eye conditions in our target community

Who We Are

Our team includes:

Vitor Pamplona (Leader, e-mail: - co-inventor of PerfectSight and a Ph.D. student at UFRGS in Brazil. Vitor is a visiting student in the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab who holds bachelors and masters degrees in computer science and brings seven years of professional experience to our team. Vitor has worked on eye physiology and retinal image processing for the UFRGS hospital. His other projects include developing numerous mobile applications, leading development on up to eight software projects, and founding several on-line technology portals in Brazil. Vitor will be working exclusively on research and development of the new prototypes, and improvements in the application, as well as leading the team at least until February 2011 as a MIT visiting student. Subsequently, Vitor will head the South American expansion for PerfectSight, starting with Brazil.

Ankit Mohan (e-mail: - co-inventor of PerfectSight and a postdoctoral associate with the Camera Culture group at the MIT Media Lab. Ankit has 8 years of research experience applying novel optics in areas of computational photography, computer vision, human computer interaction, and optics-software co-design. He has a PhD in Computer Science from Northwestern University and a BE in Instrumentation and Control Engineering from Delhi University. Ankit will be working on research and design of the new prototypes at least until July 2010. Following his post-doc work, Ankit will remain as an adviser to PerfectSight.

Chika Ekeji (e-mail: - an entrepreneurial MBA student in MIT Sloan's class of 2011. Formerly responsible for the security and ongoing maintenance of the entire family of Microsoft Office products worldwide, Chika has also provided privacy-, child safety- and geopolitics-related risk management strategy implementation to executives within Microsoft Corporation. An early entrepreneur, he literally got his hands dirty as a pre-teen fisherman back in Nigeria and most recently founded a procurement consulting company serving customers across four continents. Chika earned his B.S degrees in Marketing and Computer Science from Coastal Carolina University and his Master of Engineering in Computer Science from Cornell University. Chika will remain on the PerfectSight team and lead all business development, evangelism, and financing for the initiative. Chika will assume leadership of the U.S.-based entity after Vitor completes his time at the Media Lab.

Margaret McKenna (e-mail: - an IT consultant with diverse experiences across retail, advertising, finance, and emerging markets. Margaret spent the last half of 2009 working and living in Ghana, where she helped oneVillage Foundation develop its ICT-implementation programs for rural Africa. She currently works as a Senior Consultant for ChoiceStream, a Cambridge, MA start-up, while continuing to advise several NGOs operating locally in Ghana on ICT solutions, distribution, and sustainability. Margaret received her B.A. from Columbia University. Margaret is our source for contacts with NGOs and, together with Chika, will run day-to-day business operations including sales and marketing. She will be the main contact for our field test partners, and will supervise the field tests both remotely and on the ground.

We have been working with ophthalmology researchers and practicing optometrists who are encouraged by the quality of our results. Current and potential future collaborators include Dr. Joseph Ciolino (Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary), Dr. D’Ambrosio Jr, Don Yansen (Click Diagnostics); and Ryan Littman-Quinn (ClickDiagnostics) in Botswana; Dr. Gustavo Corrales from Honduras; and Dr. Geoff Tabin from the Himalayan Cataract Project.

Team advisors include Joost Bonsen, Ph.D. (MIT Media Lab, Media Ventures), Ramesh Raskar, Ph.D. (Media Lab, Camera Culture) Manuel M. Oliveira, Ph.D (UFRGS, Vision and Graphics), and Don Yansen (Click Diagnostics).

Our Community Partner

Partner Name

Himalayan Cataract Project


Salt Lake City, UT, USA


The Himalayan Cataract Project’s top priority is to reach the greatest number of unserved blind people, with the highest quality care, at the lowest possible cost. HCP was founded in 1995. Since then it has become a leader in international health innovation in the developing world based on its unrivaled model in eye care.


  • Service Location
    Mwandama, Malawi
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Comments and Support

  • netra good economical tool when in india it willl be available

    Posted by vivek on Sun, Oct 13th 2013, 09:23 Report Abuse

  • When will the PerfectSight app and auto-refractor be available to the public? All information about it seems to be at least a year old. My optical shop would like to use it to service American Indian reservations in remote New Mexico. (Many inhabitants cannot make it to the city to get a prescription.)

    Posted by Marc Coan on Thu, May 24th 2012, 16:20 Report Abuse

  • I lead Global Strategy for the Established Products Division of Abbott (a broad based branded generics business, with a large footprint in emerging markets) and am looking at new initiatives, including those involving mHealth, service-based propositions, integrated healthcare offerings, etc. I think your idea is interesting and would love to know more about it. Would be great if we can connect. Drop me an email.

    Posted by neeraj garg on Fri, Nov 11th 2011, 00:43 Report Abuse

  • We are this year competing with our new cataract screening tool: Vote for us!

    Posted by V. Pamplona on Mon, Apr 11th 2011, 14:54 Report Abuse

  • Do you also screen for Glaucoma?

    Posted by Hilary de Kok on Sun, Nov 14th 2010, 08:21 Report Abuse

  • What a great idea! It'll help a lot of people, they deserve to win the competition!

    Posted by Felipe on Tue, May 18th 2010, 19:32 Report Abuse

  • They should go on and win

    Posted by J. Otum on Fri, Apr 30th 2010, 11:11 Report Abuse

  • It´s an excellent Idea and it could be change the quality of peoples´s life in developing countries . Go on!!!

    Posted by José Valdeni de LIma on Mon, Apr 26th 2010, 16:04 Report Abuse

  • Invovative Idea,Keep going working towards helping others.

    Posted by A. Singh on Mon, Apr 26th 2010, 06:01 Report Abuse

  • As someone who need glasses, I can't imagine what it would be like to live without corrected vision. This is a great combination of advanced technology, social impact, and entrepreneurial energy.

    Posted by Ben Wen on Mon, Apr 26th 2010, 00:13 Report Abuse

  • Great Idea and is required as eyes are one among the very important organs of our body.he

    Posted by Mashal on Sun, Apr 25th 2010, 12:01 Report Abuse

  • Extremely useful. This is revolutionary. Way to Go " Perfect Sight".

    Posted by V. Khanna on Sun, Apr 25th 2010, 07:42 Report Abuse

  • Great Idea...extreemly useful in developing countries. Should win!!!

    Posted by S. Manohar on Sun, Apr 25th 2010, 02:54 Report Abuse

  • A very useful application indeed ! This is a re-iteration of the transformational role that research can bring about in our societies, irresepective of the time and place. These young researchers have proved that there are very simple solutions possible in this world for many seemingly high tech & complex problems. Three cheers to them and to the pursuit of applied sciences !

    Posted by M. Bodas on Sat, Apr 24th 2010, 01:43 Report Abuse

  • Great Idea...should win the competion

    Posted by B. Mohan on Thu, Apr 22nd 2010, 21:42 Report Abuse

  • Authors have a great proposal!

    Posted by Jair Santanna on Thu, Apr 22nd 2010, 12:08 Report Abuse

  • Good!

    Posted by E. T on Thu, Apr 22nd 2010, 00:36 Report Abuse

  • They should win the competition. Authors have put up a great proposal with very relevant data.

    Posted by Abhijit Bendale on Mon, Apr 19th 2010, 17:41 Report Abuse

  • Welcome to the MIT Global Challenge, Team Perfect Sight! When you get the time, do complete your team profile so visitors can get to know what you're all about, and cast an informed vote for the Community Choice award! Also, build momentum for your team using the social media hooks including Facebook and Twitter. Good luck!

    Posted by L. Hasselblad Torres on Thu, Mar 18th 2010, 11:11 Report Abuse

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