New App From Boston Children’s Hospital Doctor Simulates Infant Vision

The BabySee app provides a live simulation of infant vision.
BabySee

A baby’s sight at six months old, as shown by BabySee. Photo provided to bostonmagazine.com

In his pediatric ophthalmology practice at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. David Hunter hears one question from parents more than any other: What can my baby see?

Though there have been some photos and renderings of infant sight published in scientific books and journals, Hunter felt parents didn’t have enough resources available to answer that question. Along with colleague Justin Shaka—with whom he also cofounded an ocular screening company called REBIscan—Hunter set about creating an app that would fill that void.

Fittingly named BabySee, the app provides a live simulation of infant vision. Parents enter their child’s date of birth, point the app’s camera at an object or person, and are given an approximate idea of how their child sees what’s in front of them on that exact day, with a slider bar that can predict how that image will change as the child ages.

“It’s a way to empower parents with information about their child’s vision so they can ask the right questions and get the right care,” Hunter says. “Parents really don’t have a lot of information about what sort of testing should be done at a pediatric visit in order to determine whether their child might have an eye problem that needs a referral.”

To create the app, Hunter and Shaka compiled existing data about infant vision—specifically regarding clarity, contrast, and color—and hired programmers to manipulate an iPhone’s camera to reflect those qualities as a baby ages. BabySee, which Children’s Hospital is helping to develop, is free on the app store and has been downloaded more than 2,000 times since it launched a few months ago.

BabySee is currently only used to give parents a better insight into their kids’ vision, but Shaka says he and Hunter hope to bring a stronger diagnostic angle to the app in the future. “Right now it is only an educational app, but we have plans moving forward to make this a lot more useful for clinicians and parents and children,” he says. “It’s the first step of many along the way.”

Even before that happens, Hunter says the app is a useful tool for parents who are curious about their infant’s visual development. “In a few seconds, you get the transfer of an incredible amount of information about what your kid’s seeing,” he says. “Even I, after all my reading, was really surprised to see that I gained a new insight into what my young patients were seeing once the app was up and running live.”


Jamie Ducharme Jamie Ducharme, Contributor jducharme@bostonmagazine.com