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  • Kyle Chua

Singaporean Students’ Glaucoma Screening Device Bags International James Dyson Award

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

Three National University of Singapore (NUS) students make history this year, becoming the first-ever Singaporean team to win the international James Dyson Award. The group beat out over 2,000 entries in the global design competition with their glaucoma screening device.

The Hopes glove features a fingertip sensor that can monitor eye pressure. Credit: Dyson

HOPES (Home Eye Pressure E-skin Sensor) is a wearable device that gives you a convenient, pain-free and low-cost method to monitor eye pressure, which is used in the diagnosis of glaucoma. It uses a sensor that, when pressed on your eyelid, is able to capture dynamic pressure information of the eye in sub-millisecond precision. The data is then processed by machine learning algorithms to compute your eye pressure.

The HOPES app stores a history of your results and has direct links to healthcare systems in case you need to seek help. Your results are also transmitted to clinicians via Bluetooth or the Cloud for further assessment.

“I’ve experienced first-hand how invasive and unpleasant the tests for glaucoma can be, but it is a vital test,” said Sir James Dyson, Founder and Chief Engineer at Dyson. “Their work has the potential to make glaucoma testing much more widely available and I wish them every success as they navigate the challenging process of further development and medical approvals.”

Glaucoma is used to describe a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, resulting in blindness in some cases. It’s estimated that 80 million people in the world are living with the disease, and the number is expected to rise to 111 million by 2040. In Singapore, about 3% of people above age 50 have glaucoma.

There’s no cure for the disease and it only gets worse over time. So regular eye pressure monitoring is said to be critical in helping clinicians with treatment, which is ultimately done to preserve the patient’s vision.

The HOPES team: (from left) David Lee, Kelu Yu and Si Li. Credit: Dyson

The HOPES team is comprised of Kelu Yu, Si Li and David Lee, all of whom are passionate about engineering’s role in transforming our everyday lives. Kelu and Si Li were both inspired by their family’s engineering backgrounds, while David loved tinkering with household objects.

The three young inventors came up with the concept for HOPES when Kelu’s father was diagnosed with glaucoma in 2019. Kelu, who witnessed how her father suffered from eye pain and headaches after hospital tests, tried to learn as much as she could about the complex eye disease. She then spent the next 18 months with her teammates, designing and prototyping an accessible and non-invasive eye pressure monitoring method, which eventually became HOPES.

Credit: Dyson

The team will be receiving a cash prize of £30,000 and an additional £5,000 for their university. After their win, they said they now plan to improve the machine learning model, optimise the app and work with local hospitals in seeing how the device can be used in real tests.

“With this win, we hope in the future people can measure their eye pressure in a pain-free, at-home environment,” the team said. “We want to improve people’s quality of life and aspire to one day apply our research group’s sensor technology across different health monitoring applications, such as robotics and biomedical devices.”

Candidates join the Dyson competition by submitting an online application form. Entries are first screened at the national level by a panel of external judges. The inventions that pass then progress to the international stage, where a panel of Dyson engineers create a shortlist of 20 entries. It’s from this shortlist that Sir James Dyson will pick his winners from.

Other winners this year include Joseph Bentley, who won the medical award for React, a device that minimizes bleeding from knife wounds, and Jerry De Vos, who won the sustainability award for Plastic Scanner, a handheld device that can tell what materials a plastic product is made of.

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