In yet another landmark in the development of Artificial Intelligence, Google DeepMind has now collaborated with NHS group of hospitals in the UK to collect anonymized eye scans that will help train an artificial intelligence system being developed by the London-based startup.


DeepMind is an Artificial Intelligence startup founded by Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg, and Mustafa Suleyman in 2010 that was eventually acquired by the Mount View-based Search Engine giant for a sum of $500 million two years back. Since then Google DeepMind has been involved in various research projects including that of healthcare which aims at developing an Artificial Intelligence system of the future. This, however, isn’t the first time that DeepMind is collaborating with NHS for a project, but what makes this effort unique is the fact that it’s the first time Machine Learning is being used in a healthcare project.

The collaboration with NHS will enable Google DeepMind to collect nearly a million anonymous eye scans from Moorfields Eye Hospital which in turn would help training the system in recognizing sight-threatening conditions. It’s worth noting that eye scans are among the most complex scans in medical sciences and only a few heavily trained professionals can gauge every other detail of the same. By training the algorithm of the system, DeepMind plans to make a diagnosis of commonly occurring diseases like Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Degeneration easier.

“Our research with DeepMind has the potential to revolutionise the way professionals carry out eye tests and could lead to earlier detection and treatment of common eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration,” said Prof Sir Peng Tee Khaw, director of the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre in Ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital.



The data sharing collaboration, however, has yet again sparked some controversies regarding the ethical aspect of the same as none of the patients whose data are being shared has provided a consent to the hospital for doing so. However, this isn’t the first time such a debate is flaring up, as the previous collaboration with NHS and DeepMind has sparked similar controversies. In that case, Google was analyzing data being sourced from Royal Free, Barnet and Chase Farm hospitals for developing an app called Stream for medical professionals that would notify doctors should someone be at the risk of developing an acute kidney injury (AKI).

Moorfields Hospital has been quick to respond to the controversy by stating that the data is being shared anonymously and has also published a research protocol which is a standard for such medical projects. It is further stated that the data being shared are of historic scans and assuming the huge volume of data at stake, it highly impossible to personally identify any of it. The officials have also added that in the case of research projects like these it not necessary for taking explicitly consent from each and every patient for sharing their data.

Keeping that aside, it’s worth noting that Google Head Sundar Pichai has initially hinted the company’s plan on working towards an effective diagnosis of Diabetes Retinopathy at the Google I/O this May. In another related development, Massachusetts General Hospital has also announced a collaboration with Nvidia to develop new artificial intelligence techniques to improve diagnosis of a number of diseases.


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Sayan is a technology aficionado who shares a keen interest in the booming startup scene in India. Prior to joining TechPP, he has had stints at GizBot and IBTimes UK. Currently based in Kolkata, Sayan is pursing a degree in Dental Surgery.