A Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) team led by India-born professor Ramesh Raskar has developed a cheap way of detecting early-stage cataract, the clouding of the eye lens. Cataract is the leading cause of preventable blindness the world over.

The simple and cheap device, called Catra, can be clipped on to a smart phone or an iPod and can diagnose cataract in a few minutes.
Ramesh Raskar said. Just as a weather radar beam sweeps across the sky to detect clouds, Catra sweeps a beam of light across the eye to detect the cloudy patches called cataracts,

Detecting cataract the conventional way is expensive and costs upto $500. It requires a slit lamp and a trained physician to accurately diagnose.

The device will be of great help to people living in less developed countries of the world. Catra could provide great value as a simple and low-cost way of making the initial diagnosis that cataracts are present, especially in parts of the developing world where such services are now rare and often require travel to distant cities, an MIT statement said.

The device has already been tested in Brazil. The MIT team is now working in India, Hyderabad with the LV Prasad Eye Institute for clinical studies for further testing.

The new screening device will be presented at the annual computer-graphics conference SIGGRAPH to be held in Vancouver in August.