Smart Vision Labs gets $6.1M for iPhone-enabled vision testing device

By Aditi Pai
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SVOneNew York City-based Smart Vision Labs, which has developed a smartphone-based autorefractor for vision testing, raised $6.1 million in a round led by Techstars Ventures with participation from Heritage Group, Connectivity Capital, and Red Sea Ventures, according to TechCrunch.

National Vision, a US-based eyecare chain, is also seed investor in the company.

The device, called SVOne, consists of a handheld unit about the size of a brick that clips on to an unlocked iPhone 5s and is designed to be used by eye care professionals. The device uses wavefront aberrometry to measure refractive errors, which determines the patient's prescription. Smart Vision Labs claims their device is as accurate as autorefractor units that cost more than $20,000. Optometrists can purchase the SVOne for $3,950. The price includes the dedicated, unlocked iPhone. 

Optometrists line up the device with the patient's eye and tap once to capture the images. The software on the smartphone will then calculate the patient's refractive error within a few seconds.

The company explained that it has tested the device in Mexico, Guatemala, and Haiti, but the it will initially focus on the US market. Smart Vision is already bringing in revenue from device sales.

The company chose the iPhone 5s because it wanted to ensure that the user is working with a good camera, but Smart Vision Labs plan to eventually offer cases for other smartphones.

In July 2014, Smart Vision Labs was one of 11 startups that won the second annual Pilot Health Tech NYC awards. The Pilot Health Tech awards offer winners up to $100,000 to help them fund a pilot at a healthcare organization. Smart Vision Labs partnered with the SUNY College of Optometry in New York City to compare their device against standard tests that require machinery costing more than $10,000.

Earlier this year, eye diagnostic tool maker EyeNetra launched a service called Blink, which sends a staffer to user's home for vision tests, in New York City. Blink emphasizes that the appointments are only for users who need to be tested for glasses, not for eye health exams. The test costs $75 for one person, $130 for two people, or $170 for three people.

A month later, Warby Parker, an eyeglass retailer, announced that they were investing in technology that allows consumers to conduct smartphone-based eye exams. The news came shortly after Warby Parker raised $100 million in a round led by T. Rowe Price — the company is now valued at $1.2 billion.