Here’s another one in the category of products that *really* make a difference in the lives of users. Atomic physicist Joshua Silver has developed “Adspecs”—fluid-filled adjustable eyeglasses—and with his organization, The Centre for Vision in the Developing World, is distributing them to needy people in developing countries around the world.
The design is simple: Plastic glasses with flexible plastic lenses filled with clear oil. The user can adjust the amount of oil in the lenses using syringes attached to the arms of the glasses. Once the user has dialed in the correct amount of oil, he or she can remove the syringes and set the glasses to a permanent prescription.
Because the user can self-set the eyeglasses, usually in a matter of minutes, the need for a trained professional to fit them is removed.
According to the Centre’s website, the need for eyecare in emerging countries is stark: In the UK, there is 1 optometrist for every 8,000 people. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s 1:1,000,000. So far, more than 30,000 pairs of Adspecs have been deployed worldwide, and Professor Silver has an ambitious vision for the future—one billion people to get the glasses they need but lack access to by 2020.
Another pressing goal for Silver and the Centre is to dramatically lower the cost of producing the eyeglasses. Right now one pair costs around $20 to produce, and the project must rely on donations to offset these costs. Silver wants to get the cost down to $1 a pair.
There’s no clear plan yet for bringing down the cost, but Silver is optimistic: “Work is going on on several new designs, and further work will be required to get the costs down. The truth is that there is, at the moment, no device that can be made for a dollar in volumes of 100 million. But I am entirely confident that we can do that.”
See Adspecs in action on the Colbert Report.