Hardly a day goes by without a news report about how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is powering self-driving cars or robots that can learn to perform complex tasks previously done by humans. That includes writing magazine articles, or even editorial columns like this one. (One day you might see the byline Al Gorithm instead of mine on this column.)

Health care is in the forefront of the AI revolution. In 2012, there were fewer than 20 AI startups focused on health care; last year there were almost 70, according to CB Insights, a data analytics firm. The health care sector is expected to drive overall AI market growth over the next six years, according to a report by the research company MarketsandMarkets. The total AI market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 62.9 percent from 2016 to 2022, when it’s expected to climb to $16.6 billion.

Vision care is one of the first medical professions to embrace AI (or A-Eye, as my colleagues and I like to refer to it). One of the most powerful applications of A-Eye in vision care is predictive analytics. Several leading research organizations around the world are employing predictive analytics through an AI technique called deep learning to accurately diagnose eye diseases such as Age-Related Macular Degeneration, a leading cause of blindness and even predict its onset. Armed with clinical data provided by AI systems, physicians will create treatments to slow the disease’s progress or perhaps even eliminate it.

AI is being used by patients, too, notably in the form of personal health care assistants. These virtual assistants, known as bots, are powered by software that learns about a patient by interacting with them. They speak to patients, a la Siri or Alexa and respond to them. The more interactions that occur, the more the program can personalize the conversation for a specific patient.

A personal vision care assistant could be valuable to many patients. For example, it could remind a patient to take their glaucoma drops, send tonometer readings to their doctor or book an appointment for an eye exam.

Virtual doctors are the newest development in A-Eye. At this point, they’re more of a concept than a reality. I’ll write more about them next month.

Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology