‘Follow my finger to your left. And now your right. Next, read the letters on the eye chart.’ Analog eye-testing sessions such as these are believed to identify just 5% of vision problems. This is why RightEye and its eye-tracking and analysis solutions will soon be a permanent fixture soon at your friendly neighbourhood optometrist’s.
Bumping things ahead is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval that the Maryland-based startup secured in October 2018. This clearance further validates the safety and effectiveness of RightEye’s advanced technology that empowers doctors and transforms their patients’ health and wellness.
“What RightEye does is deliver the objective eye movement data, and we quantify it for them,” Co-founder and CEO Adam Gross said about the services offered to health practitioners. “The FDA clearance now means that we’ve gotten that stamp of approval that says that quantification and that measurement is accurate.”
Gross hopes that this will make healthcare billing easier for patients. It also signals that RightEye is finally moving beyond the research and development phase.
“Up until now, we’ve been about 80% R&D and 20% sales and marketing, in terms of where our resources are allocated,” Gross said to BizJournals. “This is the year where RightEye is flipping that.” This is not to say that research will stop, as the company has a few exciting projects in the pipeline.
Additionally, this FDA approval helped the health technology company move a few steps closer to attaining $3M in financing, as per a recent Form D.
With this expected new funding round, it hopes to get its technology to help more users, especially by targeting optometrists.
RightEye, with its infrared sensor-based technology that detects eye movement, helps reveal causes of vision problems and issues with brain functioning. Therefore, it is a very handy tool to help prevent misdiagnosis of learning difficulties and brain injuries such as concussions apart from improving hand-eye coordination of athletes. What’s more, it also offers therapeutic measures or training sessions to correct these issues.
Have Your Eye On More Than Just The Ball
But CNBC reported that the story of RightEye started with a doctorate student in kinesiology, Melissa Hunfalvay, who was learning about how the best soccer players use their eyes to optimize their play in the late 1990s. A former pro-tennis player and coach, she tried to apply these eye-movement concepts to tennis. That’s when she realized that seasoned players literally ‘keep an eye out’ for more than just the ball coming their way. They seek out subtle indicators, such as their opponent’s pre-serve tics and movements to anticipate the trajectory of the ball. This, in turn, improves their reaction time.
Armed with this discovery, right after her graduation, Hunfalvay went on to create her own eye-tracking technology. For eight years, she used this knowledge to better the eye movements, and in turn the reflexes, of sportspersons in the Major League baseball and military personnel. But all her testing equipment worked out to be expensive and bulky, not to mention quite slow in processing data.
Then, it was her meeting with seasoned entrepreneur Adam Gross, in late 2011 after a game of Tennis in D.C., that really changed the proverbial ball-game. He had just sold his second company and was looking for a new challenge. That was when he learnt of the progress Hunfalvay had made in her PhD thesis relating to the visual tracking space. So, he went on to do some research of his own on the practical and commercial applications of eye-tracking. And soon enough, RightEye was born in 2012.
From Goggles To An All-in-One Solution
The company first came up with a handheld eye scanner, as part of a government order. They even sold several eye-tracking goggles to an undisclosed “military customer” from 2012 to 2014. Then it pivoted from this legacy product with the launch of its patented cloud-based platform in early 2016.
Meanwhile, in September 2015, they launched RightEye’s 15-second concussion detection test, Neuro Vision. This module starts with some simple eye tracking tests and then the company’s cloud-based software automatically analyses and emails an easy-to-understand report to the health care provider and patient indicating the odds of a concussion, eye muscle problems or even Parkinson’s and Autism-spectrum conditions.
And in January 2017, it was selected to provide baseline screening of all athletes entering the Major League Baseball (MLB) prospect development pipeline. This form of talent evaluation helps screen out candidates who have some vision defect, preventing wrong recruits, thus helping the team save millions of dollars. The MLB client acquisition did the trick in putting RightEye on the map for its usefulness in this $1Bn+ market.
Then in June 2017, RightEye received a boost of confidence and capital in the form of $7.3M in a Series A funding – led by from VSP Global and key angel investors. VSP secured a seat on RightEye’s board, through this agreement, and the startup began exploring ways to expand its sales team in key markets and improve the product hardware to deliver cutting-edge vision care solutions.
Reaching Schools and Hospitals Across the US
This was followed by the signing of a partnership with Tobii, the world leader in eye-tracking technology. Using this technology, in January 2018, RightEye launched EyeQ™ System of computer game-style vision tests on an eye-tracking computer. EyeQ™ is considered a first of its kind portable, all-in-one solution for vision-derived health screening, tracking eye movements and correlating them to health issues. It has several programs that seek to test and train for the individual’s sports vision, everyday vision, brain health issues, and reading abilities. It is even able to identify signs of autism in 12-month-old babies and traces of Parkinson’s much before the onset of visible symptoms. What would have cost $5000+ in MRIs and PT scans, or 5 hours of cognitive tests (to detect) RightEye hopes to accomplish in $10 to $20.
It also includes vision training tests that help resolve issues located by the other tests. All these tests have a game-like quality – only instead of a controller or keypad, the player uses his/her eyes to navigate the challenge or blow up things.
In the run-up to this launch, Gross told engadget that a beta version of EyeQ’s™ software was already in use in schools, clinics and hospitals.
Today, this Washington Business Journal 2017’s Innovation award honouree services hospitals, the U.S. military, 30% of MLB teams and 100+ independent optometrists across the nation. Also, 50+ VSP network doctors use the RightEye technology in their practices.
Though the company reported revenues of less than $5M in 2016, with 125+ hardware and software installations globally, it plans to grow its customer base from 350 to 1,350 by next year. The company has raised $10.4M in funding since its inception and is also eyeing to be profitable by 2019.
To grow these numbers, RightEye has placed its bets on its intellectual property (software, logic, formulas and analytics) – most of which is already patented. While the market has brands that offer products specifically built for issues relating to reading or concussion, RightEye is the first commercialized eye-tracking system – for general healthcare – with 538 unique metrics used in its analysis. It is also well on its way to delivering faster, more accurate and less expensive means of conducting eye tests.
The Economics of RightEye
The revenue is expected to flow in from the medical practitioners, who pay $10k to $15k in the first year with a $2.5k to $5k annual fee. Additionally, patients who want to use the EyeQ Trainer would also pay RightEye and the doctor.
This company is also currently focused on improving its brand image (hired a new chief marketing officer) and sales (hired new VP Sales and 6 new employees).
“Sometime in the future, we see RightEye as part of every person’s annual physical exam,” said Hunfalvay to Medgadget of the company’s future-forward vision.
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