Improving vision in the developing world

Thursday, September 24, 2015
Ashutosh Syal (BASc ’14, Systems Design) was on track
to become a Toronto Bay Street trader when John Zelek
presented his third-year class with an issue. Hundreds of
millions people in the developing world have uncorrected
vision problems, said the Waterloo systems design
engineering professor. The mobile eye camps that serve
rural areas simply can’t keep pace with demand. Meanwhile,
many discarded smartphones end up overseas. Could
they create vision-screening software for those phones?
Syal, Daxal Desai (BASc ’14, Systems Design) and four of
their classmates took up the challenge. They read papers,
interviewed experts at Waterloo’s School of Optometry
and started designing a solution. Four months later, their
hardware didn’t work and their software performed little
better than a 50/50 guess. But they were determined to
persevere. “The ability to see clearly is something we believe
everyone should have,” Syal explains.
The next year Syal and Desai developed software that could
detect short-sightedness and far-sightedness in a matter
of seconds. The pair triumphed in the 2014 Velocity Fund
Finals and made it to the top 20 list of global finalists for
the 2015 James Dyson Award.
To commercialize their technology, they founded EyeCheck.
Now with a third founder, Rachel Friesen, the startup
is developing a hardware solution to provide highly
accurate prescriptions, which gives healthcare workers
everywhere portable and affordable tools to treat more
patients more quickly.  [Read more]