Feb 20, 2009

Eyeglasses Using Water

Eyeglasses using a simple, self-adjusting technology are now poised to change the way the world's poor see and could aid billions of people. They are still a bit large, but the inventor is working on streamlined versions, and hopes to get the cost down to about $2 from the current $19, as manufacturing volume picks up. So far, about 30,000 pair have been sold or given away. Africa is the first target with one optician to each million people.

Early models look as if they might go well with a fake mustache. Thick Coke-bottle lenses sit in dark tortoiseshell frames flanked with a pair of syringes on either temple. By turning dials, the wearer pushes more or less fluid into the lenses, protected between two hard polycarbonate covers, until the prescription is perfect. The syringes can then be removed or left in place to allow continuing changes.

The U.S. Department of Defense is planning to buy and hand out 20,000 pairs of the glasses as humanitarian aid in Angola, Georgia, and other nations. I have seen some people wear worse looking glasses than these and they cost a heck of a lot more than nineteen bucks.