A new vision for the future poor
December 30, 2008 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Wearers of Adaptive Eyewear can make their own prescriptions. The lenses are plastic bladders that change shape and corrective power with a small syringe. So far 30,000 people who may never be reached by an optician or afford conventional eyeglasses now have corrected vision. Recipients are now able to read, mend fishing nets, sew, and perform other tasks requiring good eyesight. The inventor, Oxford University professor Josh Silver, hopes his nonprofit organization can begin manufacturing and distributing up to 100 million pairs a year.
posted by ardgedee (14 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by DU at 11:17 AM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

A great first step, but not yet practical for those with complicated vision problems such as concurrent presbyopia, myopia, and astigmatism.
posted by terranova at 11:41 AM on December 30, 2008

No, but an excellent and cheap solution to the problems of millions. The man should still get a knighthood.
posted by Artw at 11:47 AM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

As someone who has lived nearly his whole life with better than 20/20 vision, I can't really fully understand how important something like this could be, until I look at my nearly-blind-without-her-glasses spouse and realize how much her quality of life would diminish if she couldn't drive, or use her computer, or watch TV, or any of the things I never even think about.

I was amazed when I read about this in the original thread, and I'm still impressed now. If this works as advertised, and this product can really help 100 million people see clearly, then yeah, I agree with Artw, this guy deserves a Knighthood from The Whole Damn World.
posted by quin at 12:13 PM on December 30, 2008

As someone who has lived nearly his whole life with better than 20/20 vision

It'll catch up to you someday! *shakes fist*

posted by delmoi at 12:34 PM on December 30, 2008

I think they are very cool looking and I want a pair. Does someone make frames that look like that?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:37 PM on December 30, 2008

That is ridiculously cool. I can't imagine how i would survive without glasses.

And I want a pair too.
posted by billypilgrim at 2:10 PM on December 30, 2008

This is so great. I love the stories of inventions that take something expensive and/or complex and make it into an accessible, affordable device for everyone. It makes me happy for science. ^_^
posted by aliceinreality at 3:59 PM on December 30, 2008

This is a nice idea, but people, even desperately poor people, want normal stuff. Normal-looking glasses, not something weird-looking, complicated and prone to malfunction and leakage. I think it would make more sense to invest this energy and capital into getting simple, cheap, normal eyeglasses to the people who need them - a simplified range of strengths in ordinary plastic - I'm sure you could make 20 for the price of one of these fluid pairs - and an effective means of distribution. Or just encourage people to donate their used spectacles to a charity who could get them to places like this. The same people who I assume would be travelling the bundu giving away fluid specs (and training people how to use them!) could just as easily be travelling around with a big bin of specs that people could try until they found a pair that suited them.

Incidentally, I lost my glasses in Africa a couple of months ago. But this was Johannesburg, and they were Prada, so no doubt having changed hands a few times somebody's wearing them now in one of the swisher parts of Soweto - not a destitute cobbler I'm sure!
posted by Flashman at 4:27 PM on December 30, 2008

Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper and just as effective to run around with a cart of those dirt-cheap plastic reading glasses in a wide range of common prescriptions? You can solve the 'no optician' problem by having them try on pairs in different diopters until the find whatever works best.

You could easily fix farsightedness and nearsightedness that way, at least, and maybe some kinds of astigmatism with a sufficiently large cart.
posted by Mitrovarr at 7:00 PM on December 30, 2008

Not to diss One-Laptop-Per-Child, but this sort of charitable technology is so much more necessary and fundamental, but is so much less sexy that it’ll never receive one hundredth of the attention that OLPC gets.
posted by wilful at 7:25 PM on December 30, 2008

They really should do what OLPC does, and give donors an actual pair of the glasses, with any contribution over a certain amount. That way, every time people explain what they're wearing, it would help create awareness.
posted by pjdoland at 7:41 PM on December 30, 2008

It's probably not a huge concern in the target market (ie typically tropical developing countries), but what happens when it gets below freezing outside?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 11:28 PM on December 30, 2008

A lot of these questions are addressed by the FAQ.
posted by Benjy at 5:46 AM on December 31, 2008

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