Ramesh Raskar: NETRA


Small portable measuring device that administers an eye test and determines necessary correction.


Despite the fact that eyeglasses cost as little as $3 to manufacture, the developing world does not have easy access to equipment that performs the necessary tests to determine what vision correction a person needs. Most tests, such as reading charts and trial lens sets, are expensive and bulky to transport. As a result, poor eyesight prevents many people from becoming literate – and illiteracy is a major cause of poverty.


A small portable device that combines the optical test with a high-pixel density cell phone can determine the need for eye correction. The low-cost device does not require a physician – the need for eye correction can be determined with the touch of a button. Once patients are aware they are in need of glasses, taking advantage of low-cost eyeglasses is generally easy.

“Even in developing countries an eye chart is too expensive – you have to carry trial lenses. The reason NETRA works is that in the last two years the pixels pitch on a cell phone display has become extremely small and at that high resolution displays can perform tasks that are comparable to the highest end scientific instruments.” – Ramesh Raskar, Associate Professor, MIT Media Lab


Eventually, NETRA’s creators hope that assisting people in the developing world with correcting their vision will help reduce poverty and improve overall health. Even in the US, where 9 percent of children have an uncorrected refractive error, a small portable measurement device can help people who don’t know they are in need.

“Vision is such an important part of our lives but because it’s not a life-threatening situation it gets overlooked.” – Ramesh Raskar, Associate Professor, MIT Media Lab