The need is compelling: Over 1 billion people in the third world need corrective eyewear but lack access to testing and glasses. The solution is spectacularly innovative: A $2 scope attached to a smartphone tests for vision defects, and a new pair of adjustable glasses with liquid lenses fixes the problem.
It may seem simple enough, but there's a lot more to an eye exam than looking at a chart. A modern eye exam requires expensive machinery that is very difficult to transport to the areas of Africa that need it most. The new smartphone tool by EyeNetra effectively replaces the large machine with a hand-sized phone using a series of calculations derived from tracking the eye. Best of all, the scope needed to conduct the exam can be obtained for just $2 — a very charity-friendly price point.
To some ophthalmologists, the test isn't quite perfect. It lacks the ability for doctors to try out different corrective lenses during the test, a way of verifying the calculated results. And it cannot check for dangerous eye diseases such as glaucoma. Still, it represents a huge advance in making corrected vision a universal right.
But the EyeNetra scope isn't the only advance in eye care tech being offered to the developing world. Silicone company Dow Corning is currently partnering with the Centre for Vision in the Developing World to test a new adjustable liquid silicon eyeglass called Adspecs. A pair of pumps attached to the glasses fill a pair of plastic lenses with silicon oil until the shape needed to correct a patient's vision is obtained. Screws are then tightened to lock the lens shape into place. The pumps and tubing are then removed, leaving the patient with a normal-looking pair of glasses.
[Image source: Global Vision 2020]
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