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Intel-Powered Netra.AI Uses Deep Learning to Reduce Diabetic Vision Loss



A new development coming from a collaboration between Sankara Eye Foundation and the Singapore-based Leben Care could have big implications for diabetic retinopathy (DR), especially in India. An Intel-powered, cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) solution relies on deep learning to identify retinal conditions in a short period of time. The accuracy matches that of human doctors, and the system, caled Netra.AI, can drastically reduce screening burdens.

Prakash Mallya is vice president and managing director of Sales, Marketing, and Communications Group at Intel India. 

“The use of AI to improve disease detection and prevention is a critical step for the healthcare industry and a giant leap for humankind,” Mallya says. “India has one of the largest diabetic populations in the world and diabetic retinopathy is the major cause for vision loss and blindness in persons of working age. With Netra.AI, Sankara Eye Foundation and Leben Care have leveraged the power of Intel Xeon Scalable processors and built-in Intel Deep Learning (DL) Boost to accurately detect DR and enable timely treatment to effectively combat avoidable vision impairment and blindness in diabetic patients.”

Impact in India

This new development is especially important for India as the nation has one of the largest diabetic populations in the world. Current estimates put the total number of cases at 98 million by 2030, and according to research, DR is a leading cause of blindness and vision loss in adults. 

Early detection and treatment plays a major role in stopping damage, but the country, especially in rural regions, suffers from a lack of trained retinal specialists. Without the required resources, it is difficult to reach an effective screening.

Dr. Kaushik Murali is president of Medical Administration, Quality & Education at Sankara Eye Foundation in India. 

“Technology and AI are democratizing healthcare access, especially in screening for ailments,” said Dr. Mural. “Our team at Sankara Eye Foundation has focused on our vision to eliminate needless blindness from India. The current solution, Netra.AI — where we had a key role in the design and development with Leben Care — uses robust AI-enabled platforms from Intel. It is an example of how like-minded collaborators can create meaningful and impactful solutions for various challenges that face humanity.”


The Intel-powered Netra.AI works by analyzing images from portable and technician-operated camera devices, which provide immediate DR grading results via a cloud-based web portal. With the use of AI algorithms and neural networks, Netra.AI helps detect DR stages.

The team behind the new development believes it can eventually be used in other areas, such as analyzing other retinal conditions and glaucoma. It can also help reduce the amount of time healthcare specialists must dedicate to screening, enabling resources to be focused in more important areas.

The Netra.AI system has screened 3,093 patients in India and identified 742 at-risk individuals. It puts together detailed reports in as little as two minutes, and immediate diagnosis can be achieved. It relies on Intel Xeon Scalable processors with built-in Intel Deep Learning Boost and Intel Advanced Vector Extension 512 acceleration. 


Alex McFarland is a tech writer who covers the latest developments in artificial intelligence. He has worked with AI startups and publications across the globe.