Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Choose your own prescription (glasses)


Silver has devised a pair of glasses which rely on the principle that the fatter a lens the more powerful it becomes. Inside the device’s tough plastic lenses are two clear circular sacs filled with fluid, each of which is connected to a small syringe attached to either arm of the spectacles.

The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. When the wearer is happy with the strength of each lens the membrane is sealed by twisting a small screw, and the syringes removed. The principle is so simple, the team has discovered, that with very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription. (The Guardian)

What’s most interesting to me is how well Professor Silver actually went out and understood a problem. Most of us see no need for adjusting our own glasses. But in the developing world, there aren’t nearly as many opticians. Getting a prescription can be impossible. The essence of great product management is to understand a real problem people face, and give them a complete solution in which they’re willing to invest their time and money.

Silver didn’t just solve the academic problem of “could it be done,” he also set up a company, “Adaptive Eyecare Ltd.”

One comment on "Choose your own prescription (glasses)"

  • Andrew Yeomans says:

    Once you get old enough to need bifocals, there’s a great need for variable glasses. I’d think a simple piston arrangement in the side-arm of the glasses would allow for an additional 1-2 diopters adjustment for reading, and also allow for intermediate adjustments for viewing computer displays.
    A high-tech version could even automatically adjust focus to follow your gaze.
    Prof Silver’s idea also could simplify automatic focus for camera lenses.
    I wonder whether such spin-offs for richer countries might be able to attract more capital to help fund the development cost for improvements – it’s a really great aim to try to get the price to a dollar for for hundreds of millions of people to benefit.

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