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CNN Today

No More Eye Charts?

Aired March 2, 2000 - 1:49 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: If you've seen one, you've pretty much seen them all. Eye exams haven't changed much in recent years. But the same technology that improved deep-space telescopes may do away with old eye charts.

Here is CNN's Don Knapp with that,

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DON KNAPP, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not what Thomas McKay sees in this machine, but what the machine sees in him that determines how well his eyes view the world. McKay is demonstrating a prototype device that sends 100,000 beams of light into his eye to measure the focusing accuracy of his eye's lens.

PROF. JOSEF BILLE, INVENTOR: As those beams travel into the eye, they're reflected off the retina, and as they come back, they are bended a little bit according to the refracted abnormalities inside the eye.

KNAPP: By calculating how accurately the eye's lens bends the light, the prototype Visx machine can determine how much correction the eye needs to see normally without a patient ever looking at an eye chart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we can see you have got a half diopter sphere, another half diopter cyl, about 77. Overall, though, through most of your eye you're seeing quite well.

KNAPP: It's called wave front technology. Physics Professor Josef Bille pioneered it at the University of Heidleberg in Germany 25 years ago as a way to counter atmospheric distortion in telescopic images.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Number one, number two?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: About the same.

KNAPP: But University of California opthamologist Dr. Stephen McLeod says human vision is more complex than how well our eyes bend light.

DR. STEPHEN MCLEOD, UNIV. OF CALIF. SAN FRANCISCO: The interaction of the focusing elements of the eye with the retina, and the interaction of those elements with higher processing systems in the brain, that it would certainly be an oversimplification to simply look at the optical system of the eye and say: Well, now, we have got the best correction.

KNAPP: McLeod says, he considers Visx wave front technology a useful tool, but he says he isn't yet ready to throw away his eye charts.

MCLEOD: Read that for me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: F, Z, B, D, 4.

KNAPP: Don Knapp, CNN, San Francisco.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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