Inventor designs ‘tunable’ glasses to help billions to see

December 23, 2008

(ChattahBox) — A retired Oxford University physics professor Joshua Silver, has designed a pair of glasses which can be adjusted by the wearer without the need for an optician. The professor (photo left with early prototype) came up with the idea in what he describes as a “glimpse of the obvious”, which he hopes will help the world’s poor to receive glasses for the first time within just over a decade. He estimates that at least 3.6 billion people in the world need vision correction and don’t have it.
Professor Silver came up with the idea of developing an adjustable spectacle after a chance conversation in 1985 when he and a colleague were discussing optical lenses. However it took more than 20 years to finally come up a design which can be made cheaply on a large scale. His adaptive glasses are designed to be “tuned” by the wearer to suit their eyes without the need for a prescription and can help both short-sighted and long-sighted people.

Working on the principle that thicker lenses are more powerful than thin ones, Prof Silver’s spectacles can be adjusted by injecting tiny quantities of fluid. The tough plastic glasses have thin sacs of liquid in the center of each lens. They come with small syringes attached to each arm with a dial for the wearer to add or remove fluid from the lens. Once the lenses have been adjusted, the syringes are removed and the spectacles worn just like a prescription pair.

The invention will enable millions of people in poorer parts of the world, where opticians are in short supply, to wear glasses for the first time. A trial project, supported by the Department for International Development, has already seen thousands of pairs distributed in Third World countries. Professor Silver is now preparing to launch an ambitious scheme in India to distribute one million pairs in a year. His aim is to eventually reach 100 million people a year, with a target of one billion in total by 2020.


Comments

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