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Figuring out your own eyeglass prescription? PerfectSight Opticals may soon have the app for that

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 31, 2010 10:00 AM

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I've been hearing good things about yet another MIT Media Lab spin-out, PerfectSight Opticals, which comes out of work done at the lab's "Camera Culture" group.

A group of four Media Lab researchers developed a plastic lens assembly (cost: $2) that can clip onto the front of a mobile phone. When a user looks through the lens at the mobile phone's screen, she sees a set of parallel lines. She presses keys on the phone to make the lines overlap, and in about two minutes, the phone displays the proper prescription data. (See the videos below.)

The project won a $5,000 award at last spring's MIT Ideas Competition, and a small team working to commercialize the technology also was chosen as a finalist for the MassChallenge start-up competition this summer. The team says that "uncorrected refractive errors" (near-sightedness and far-sightedness) affect about 600 million people, and are the second most common cause of blindness worldwide. As you might expect, the majority of those people live in less-developed countries, where there isn't a Lenscrafters on every corner, and where the lowest-tech equipment for diagnosing eye problems still costs around $100.

Leading the venture are Chika Patrick Ekeji, a Sloan School of Management student who'll finish his MBA next spring, and Vitor Pamplona, a visiting PhD candidate at the Media Lab.

Ekeji writes via e-mail, "We are working on productizing the prototype...We are in discussions with several potential partners in that regard, and our current plan is to have a [Version 1] product available in six months or so."

The company isn't yet actively raising money, though Ekeji says they may talk with some individual angel investors soon.

PerfectSight doesn't yet have a Web site, and when I e-mailed with Ekeji earlier this month, he said they hadn't yet incorporated.

Two videos about the original MIT project, below:

[ Second video is from the Media Lab's LabCast series, by Paula Aguilera and Jonathan Williams. ]

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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