Some things are hard to improve upon. The rubber tire is one of those - it just works so well that what are you going to do to make it better Tables are also pretty well-developed. You have a flat surface at arm height. Where do you go from there Books are pretty great too. You have black inked words on white paper, sometimes with pictures. How can you go wrong
Glasses might have been in the above category a few months ago, but not anymore. That's because Keith Thompson and Jose Garcia of DigitalVision have found a way to build a better pair of glasses that can give sharper vision via a more accurate vision measurement system the likes of which has never before been seen. "Its all digital," explained Keith Thompson, "It uses electronically-controlled lenses that are 25 times more precise. And it lets patients look at images in a mirror, which is a way to do vision measurement in a much more accurate, much more precise way."
And its about time, really. Conventional glasses prescriptions are created by doing tests with a phoropter, a clunky instrument of dials and lenses that has not really changed for 100 years. While patients can get a rough approximation of a new type of lens that will help them see better, the resulting lenses provide the best possible vision. But DigitalVision's new invention, the VisionOptimizer, uses computer algorithms and robotic actuators to much more accurately assess a person's vision. The VisionOptimizer can measure the amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism more precisely and other "higher order" errors not measured by the phoropter. Also, the patient will be in control of the measurements, adjusting their own vision until they can see the most clearly possible using their own controls. The new piece of equipment will also use real-world images to test and simulate vision. For instance, if you are into soccer, the equipment will show soccer scenes that you can use to fine-tune your vision. "Anyone who has had an eye examination will appreciate the potential of DigitalVision's technology," said Lee Herron, vice president of commercialization for the Georgia Research Alliance. "While the product is still in the early stages, the company is making steady progress toward bringing its system to market."
New manufacturing processes
The good news doesn't stop there. The new, more accurate data from this new test is then transmitted to an optical laboratory, which also has new tools at its disposal to take advantage of the new measurements. "There's some new technology in the laboratory called free-form lens processing," explains Dr. Thompson. "It is all computer-controlled fabrication. So they can take advantage of the precise measurements that we make here."
More accurate, the same size, less cost compared to a phoroptor
A fully-automated system examination system for an ophthalmologist's office using present technology can cost approximately $100,000. But the company expects the VisionOptimizer to actually cost less than that. Also, the system is backed up with a whole cloud-based information storage system, so that no matter which doctor you go to, you can always access your vision test information and your eyesight history through the Internet. Using that information, you can order different products from different lens manufacturers without having to get new tests done. "You will be able to see exactly how well your prescription will improve your vision," explained Dr. Jose Garcia. "We are talking very, very small differences, but still perceivable. Patients will be able to see exactly how much better we can make it - even at night, and during the day."
Why it All Began
"The main motivation was to understand the root cause of why glasses are bad - why people don't like their prescriptions, or when they get them why they don't see as well as they should," said Thompson. He explained that his company has been thoroughly examining the entire glasses-creating process for the last 7 years in order to answer the question of how defective glasses are made, and how to fix the problems inherent in the almost-ancient process. The company is now at the prototype stage with their VisionOptimizer device, and is getting ready to build the next-generation system with the help of Georgia Tech Research Institute's Electro Optical Systems Lab. GTRI-EOSL conducts research in broad areas involving electro-optical systems and also provides engineering services to companies developing innovative products.The doctors explained that there have been attempts to improve the 100-year-old phoropter system before. During the 1970s, a system called the Humphrey Vision Analyzer was introduced to measure vision more accurately than the phoropter, and to provide a better patient experience. Instead of viewing an eye chart through a bulky lens dial, the system projected images onto a mirror, and the patients adjusted a set of knobs to improve image quality. The Humphrey system, which is no longer in production, used a unique sliding lens system to evaluate smaller incremental changes than the phoropter could measure. But while the device made more accurate measurements, the fabrication equipment needed to manufacture corrective lenses to match that accuracy has only become available within the last ten years, Thompson added.
DigitalVision hopes to have its VisionOptimizer in clinical trials with patients next year.