Google has announced a project to analyse one million eye scans from NHS patients in an attempt to detect early signs of blindness.
DeepMind, a British subsidiary of the American internet giant, plans to use advanced computer learning technology to spot indicators of sight loss that have so far been undiscovered.
The company said it hoped the research would mean more people receiving early treatment to prevent blindness, amid predictions that sight loss will double in the UK by 2050.
Across the world there is an estimated 285 million visually impaired people, and 39 million of these are blind.
Conditions like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy can be picked up is using digital screenings, which are highly complex and take a lot of time to analyse.
Now Google‘s DeepMind Health is teaming up with a Moorfields Eye Hospital in London to investigate how machine learning could help analyse these scans efficiently and effectively.
At the moment, eye health professionals rely on digital scans of the eye to diagnose and determine the correct treatment for common eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
The scans are highly complex and traditional analysis tools have been unable to explore them fully.
It also takes eye health professionals a long time to analyse eye scans, which can have an impact on how quickly they can meet patients to discuss diagnosis and treatment.
DeepMind, which Google paid £400 million to acquire two years ago, hopes to use artificial intelligence to advance medical and climate research after its software defeated the world champion at the ancient Chinese board game Go.
The collaboration hopes this will lead to earlier detection of common eye diseases.