THEY SAY the eyes are the window to the soul, but in the case of Google's artificial intelligence (AI), they offer the means to predict heart disease.
Google's parent company Alphabet has more than just the search giant under its banner; alongside its bizarre 'X' experimental tech division sits its health science company Verily, which creates all manner of healthcare tech.
The latest bit of kit out of Verily is an AI algorithm, which, according to a paper published in Nature's Biomedical Engineering journal, can evaluate scans of the back of the eye and accurately deduce a person's risk of cardiovascular problems against their age, blood pressure and gender.
The AI algorithms need a good dose of machine learning before they can do this well, which involved analysing a medical dataset of around 300,000 patients and crunching both eye scans and more general medical data.
Deep learning neural networks, which essentially pick apart data similar to our soft human brains, look for patterns in the data and trawl through them to identify indicators of cardiovascular problems.
Once up to scratch, Verily claims the results can be as accurate as current blood test methods. And scanning the eye is also a lot easier than extracting blood, especially if the patient has an aversion to needles and gets all faint at the idea of being jabbed by one.
There are limitations to the AI tech; it was only trained on images with a 45-degree field of view, meaning the AI model would need to be retrained for other eye images, and larger datasets would be needed before such an AI system is ready for use in clinical trials.
However, Verily's tech is a step towards a future where medical assessments are simple body scans like something out of Star Trek rather than a series of swabbing, jabbing, and, for the gentlemen among our readers, being told to cough while your tender parts are cradled by the cold hands of a clinician.µ
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