Brightlamp wants to use AI to spot concussions

Can an app look you in the eye and know if you have a brain injury? That’s something being worked on by Startup Battlefield company Brightlamp, a computer vision and machine learning startup out of Purdue University.

Brightlamp creates medical software with the goal of helping the lay public determine if something might be wrong with them and, as co-founder Kurtis Sluss explains it, one of the lowest-hanging fruits is diagnosing possible concussions.

Concussions are prevalent in many sports, but particularly football; up to 40 percent of pro football players have shown signs of dementia, Alzheimer’s and depression due to repeated concussive blows to the head. The National Football League has used similar technology as Brightlamp to look for possible injury in its players and prevent further damage, but injuries can often go undiagnosed and the tech is not available to everyone on an app.

That’s where Brightlamp comes in. Sluss’s app has been trained using deep learning to spot concussions in those who’ve been hit hard in the head. It works by flashing a bright light from a smartphone into the person’s eye and then measuring pupil dilation, which is an important measure in helping to determine if there is a traumatic brain injury after a blow to the head. The app then takes this information and pushes it to a cloud-based neural network to figure out if the person has the characteristic markers of someone with a concussion. According to Sluss, the whole thing takes about five seconds and is the fastest concussion diagnostic on the market.

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Sluss claims a near perfect diagnostic accuracy of 98 percent when compared to the same data from MRIs, and says there will be two versions of the app when it becomes commercially available. One version would be for coaches and professionals who want to keep tabs on how their players are doing, and the other will be for athletes and others who want to test themselves.

Brightlamp’s app is not FDA approved and can’t be used commercially at the moment. However, the startup says it is working within proper channels for approval for use in medical diagnosis and it also has a provisional patent for the technology.

But the company isn’t stopping at concussions. Sluss says he wants to make the world “medically mobile” and plans to use the tech to determine other diseases with just your smartphone in hand. He didn’t reveal what Brightlamp was working on next, but did say a few things were in the works.

Sluss is currently a chemical engineering student at Purdue. He is joined by teammates Jonathan Holt, Craig Wilhite, Michael Heims, James Waggoner and Dylan Sinks, who also are students in various engineering departments at Purdue.

The longtime friends came up with the idea during a hackathon in 2015, the same year “Concussion,” the movie starring Will Smith about a doctor who discovers the mass cover up of brain injuries in NFL players, hit theaters.