Being a four-eyes just got a lot easier. A British physicist has invented a new kind of eyeglasses that wearers can adjust to fit their prescription all by themselves. There’s no need for an optician or a long wait for custom lenses, which makes the glasses a great solution for lower-income populations and people in developing countries with limited access to vision care.
The “adaptive eyeware,” pictured above, works by pumping silicon gel into or out of a space between each flexible plastic lens. Pump more fluid in and the lens expands outward to correct far-sightedness. Pump fluid out to shrink the lens and correct near-sightedness. Wearers stare at a vision chart and add or remove fluid until the characters on the chart become clear.
“Glasses like these are perfect for use in the third world,” Josh Server, the Oxford professor who invented the self-adjustable specs, told the Guardian. “We can send them to schools where teachers can direct pupils to set their spectacles to suit each one’s vision. It is as simple as that.”
Silver is the director of the Centre for Vision in the Developing World, an organization devoted to solving “refractive error” (uncorrected vision) around the globe. Over 40,000 pairs of Silver’s glasses are in use today. The Centre’s ultimate goal is to distribute one billion pairs.
A lack of proper eyesight has direct effects for those affected by it; a reduction in productivity at work, a closing-off of new opportunities, a reduction in quality of life, a possible deterioration in general health and possibly preventable blindness.
[T]he World Health Organization has pinpointed refractive error … as the number one cause of low vision in the world today, and the second greatest cause of preventable blindness after cataracts. … [T]he cost of traditional eyewear is prohibitive for the many people surviving on less than a dollar per day.
Currently, one pair of self-adjustable glasses costs approximately $25 to produce and distribute. Silver hopes this price can be brought down to under $2. The Centre has partnered with Dow Chemical and World Bank to supply 200 million glasses to schoolchildren in Africa and Asia.
To help the cause of improving vision worldwide, click here to make a donation to the Centre for Vision in the Developing World.
Photo credit: Nadya Peek