Software developed by two Oklahoma optometrists is being used in space to test the eyesight of astronauts, following reports of vision loss by one-fifth of those exposed to long-term microgravity.
Elk City optometrist Dan Bintz — who developed Acuity Pro software with recently retired Bartlesville optometrist Jerry Carter — said NASA early last month launched a two-year study using their vision-science software with Expedition 35 astronauts at the International Space Station.
Acuity Pro is a digital version of the eye chart introduced in the late 1800s, then electronically projected for years before the advent of computers, Bintz said. The software and companion remote control allow users to change the big “E” traditionally at the top of the chart to a different letter, randomize the letters in all rows, and adjust letter sizes to accommodate exam rooms shorter than the standard 20-foot test distance.
The Windows-based software was loaded on space station laptops, giving Houston-based NASA officials the ability to monitor astronauts' visual alterations in real time, Bintz said. They now can explore when impairments begin, how they progress and ways to reverse them, he said.
According to NASA, about 20 percent of astronauts who have flown to the station, where most average 100-day stays, report some type of vision problems, primarily with farsightedness, Bintz said. About half of those suffer visual impairments that seem to be permanent, he said. It's believed prolonged exposure to microgravity causes intracranial pressure and swelling of the optic nerve, he said.
Bintz declined to share the dollar amount of the NASA contract or the annual sales of his company, which is based in his optometry offices in Elk City and employs two workers.
Founded in 2000, Acuity Pro (acuitypro.com) has some 8,000 users worldwide, retired Bartlesville optometrist Jerry Carter said. Users also are in Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, Mexico and Canada. The licensed software costs $1,600, he said.