BabySee: Mobile app lets you see through an infant’s eyes

David Hunter, MD, PhD, chief of Ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital, gets a lot of questions from parents, but the number one question is: “What can my baby see?”

That depends. How old is the baby?

Five days after birth, she might see something like the image at left; at 3 months, the image at right:

BabySee 5 days and 3 mos

At 6 months and 9 months, there’s increasing color and resolution:

BabySee 6 and 9 mos

By 12 months, your baby sees pretty much as you do.

Hunter teamed up with scientists and engineers at REBIScan, a company he co-founded in 2009, to create the BabySee Infant Vision Simulator. An educational iPhone/iPad app that’s free from the iTunes Store, BabySee lets you point your camera at any scene (selfies included) and see it through your baby’s eyes. Enter her birth date, and then just move the little slider to get a baby’s eye view at birth through 12 months.

Hunter and REBIScan co-founder Justin Shaka presented BabySee yesterday at the second annual Innovators Showcase at Boston Children’s Hospital, organized by the hospital’s Innovation Acceleration Program.

BabySee has solid vision science behind it. Decades of research (accessible through the app) have helped tease out when infants begin to see color, clarity and contrast, based on studies measuring babies’ brain activity while being shown different images at different ages, or measuring when a baby’s head turns and how consistently he looks at an image.

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-2-03-01-pm“We expect people to turn on the app once they’ve designed their nursery and see what it will look like for the baby,” says Hunter. “You can get a good picture of what stands out. You could even take it to Babies R Us and see how different colors show up and whether checkers matter.”

An image like the one at left illustrates how much faces matter to babies. Even at 2 weeks, facial features jump out from the blur.

The app’s “EyeQ” button also provides tips for parents on what vision tests their pediatrician should be conducting at their child’s next visit, from birth until age 5.

“It’s a way to empower parents to get the best vision care for young children at a critical time in their development,” says Hunter.

A version for Android devices is forthcoming. Eventually, Hunter hopes to expand on BabySee to simulate specific vision problems, such as colorblindness or loss of visual acuity in one eye (detectable through BabySee’s sister product, the Pediatric Vision Scanner). “Maybe the app itself could do eye screenings, so parents could be proactive about screening at home,” adds Shaka.

For more, visit BabySeeApp.com.

If you are a physician with a complex-care patient to refer, call Boston Children’s priority line (1-844-BCH-PEDS).