Google Is Using AI & Machine Learning To Detect Eye Blindness; Can It Disrupt Healthcare For Ever?


Google Eyes

There are more than 400 million diabetes patient in the world, out of which 40 million reside in India. Due to diabetes, several forms of eye diseases crop up, which can make the person blind. But as there are way fewer ophthalmologists, most of these eye diseases are left unattended, which take away vision from millions of diabetes patient.

What if a technology is developed, which can detect such eye diseases early on, and help to save the vision of diabetes patients?

Google has decided to make an impact in the healthcare niche by automating this detection, using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

And going by the looks of it (no pun intended), it can actually change everything about healthcare. Just imagine using the same technology in cancer, AIDS, malnutrition and more.

If you are imagining a future where every disease is detected and treated by AI and machine learning, then you are not alone.

Google’s Disruption in Healthcare

There is a disease called diabetic retinopathy, which happens to diabetic patients. Tiny aneurysms develop in the retina, which, if not treated, can take away the vision of the person.

Google is using their advanced AI algorithms and machine learning to detect such developments in the retina early on and alert the patient within seconds.

Yes, the detections done by the AI software developed by Google Brain team works even better than what doctors do, manually.

Lily Peng, who is a product manager with the Google Brain AI research group, which is developing this AI-powered retina scanning software, said, “This kind of blindness is completely preventable, but because people can’t get screened, half suffer vision loss before they’re detected. One of the promises of this technology is being able to make healthcare more accessible.”

Interestingly, this work initiated by Google is not something entirely new. The logic behind this AI-powered healthcare initiative is the same which deep learning logic which helps Google Images to differentiate between humans, cats and dogs.

Just by modifying it, and making it even more precise, this same deep learning is now empowering retina scan and detecting the signs of blindness early on.

Google Starts Retina Scans in India

India has been chosen by Google to kickstart this healthcare disruption, and the process has already started.

During 2017 WIRED Business Conference in New York City, Peng informed the audience that Google has partnered with Aravind Eye Care System in Tamil Nadu to take forward this initiative and benefit millions of patients.

Aravind Eye Care System was established in 1970, with the sole aim of providing assistance to eye patients.

During the initial research work, Aravind Eye Care management provided Google with thousands of retina scans to make their AI and machine learning even more powerful. Based on the clinical trials, Google is now ready to expand the same to other hospitals across India and globally.

Will It Make Doctors Out Of Job?

Peng has dismissed such speculations, simply because there aren’t much eye specialists, and the number of diabetes patients is way too much.

As per Peng, such advanced technology will help the doctors to detect and identify such cases early on, and help the patient to initiate treatment which can correct the issue.

She said, “There’s not enough expertise to go, we need to have our specialists working on treating people who are sick,”

What can be the real world implications of AI and machine learning in the healthcare sector is right now only a speculation. But what Google is right now doing to revolutionise healthcare is actually amazing.

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