The Stanford Acuity Test: A Precise Vision Test Using Bayesian Techniques and a Discovery in Human Visual Response

  • Chris Piech Stanford University
  • Ali Malik Stanford University
  • Laura M. Scott
  • Robert T. Chang Stanford University
  • Charles Lin Stanford University


Chart-based visual acuity measurements are used by billions of people to diagnose and guide treatment of vision impairment. However, the ubiquitous eye exam has no mechanism for reasoning about uncertainty and as such, suffers from a well-documented reproducibility problem. In this paper we make two core contributions. First, we uncover a new parametric probabilistic model of visual acuity response based on detailed measurements of patients with eye disease. Then, we present an adaptive, digital eye exam using modern artificial intelligence techniques which substantially reduces acuity exam error over existing approaches, while also introducing the novel ability to model its own uncertainty and incorporate prior beliefs. Using standard evaluation metrics, we estimate a 74% reduction in prediction error compared to the ubiquitous chart-based eye exam and up to 67% reduction compared to the previous best digital exam. For patients with eye disease, the novel ability to finely measure acuity from home could be a crucial part in early diagnosis. We provide a web implementation of our algorithm for anyone in the world to use. The insights in this paper also provide interesting implications for the field of psychometric Item Response Theory.

AAAI Special Technical Track: AI for Social Impact