For people in rural areas, the occasional eye test camp organised by non-profits or NGOs or the eye tests offered by village hospitals or health centres are the only option to know if they suffer from deficient vision. According to The Better India, L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, a non-profit eye care institution is aiming to introduced a low cost, origami-based, DIY phoropter eye test which will enable to test their vision and determine if they need to make the long trip to the city to correct it.
The innovative ‘Folding Phoropter’ consists of two oblong boxes with lenses at the end that slide into each other. One needs to adjust the boxes within each other to achieve the optimum focus to be able to read a chart similar to the chart in an optometrists clinic. The outer box has measurements graded onto its length and based on the adjustment of the boxes one can instantly know an accurate measure or number of their vision. View a video of how this is assembled and used.
A phoropter is the spectacle-like contraption placed on our nose to test different lenses to determine the power of lenses an individual needs. The foldable, origami phoropter is a low cost version of the optometrist’s phoropter and is invaluable as a screening instrument to people in rural areas. It, however, has to be backed by a qualified optometrist before a patient is fitted with corrective lenses or recommended for corrective surgery. Ashish Jain, Designer at LVPEI told Reuters,
The scenario right now is that there are a lot of people who do not have access to refractive error screening. And because they can’t do that [get tested] a lot of people go visually impaired. It’s really intuitive to actually use this device, and using that they’ll be able to know if they actually need to go to a visual expert…You don’t need different lenses; it’s just the whole range you have in a very simple two-lens system.”
The idea for the device was conceived at a hackathon called ‘Engineering the Eye,’ organised at BITS Hyderabad in 2013. Veerendranath Pesala, an optometrist at LVPEI, was mentoring one of the teams at the hackathon. While the initial prototype was made of plastic, the eventual decision to make it out of paper was decided based on studies and inspired by Stanford professor Manu Prakash who wanted to make a microscope out of paper to make it more accessible to the masses.
The device is easy to construct single-handedly and costs as low as Rs. 50. LVPEI is currently getting a final validation of the product through a study. It expects to make the foldable phoropter available early next year, through primary centres which are a part of its network and even send volunteers initially to help assemble them. According to the WHO, poor eyesight affects an estimated 153 million people around the world and a low cost device could aid early diagnosis and thus prevent many from vision impairment due to delayed or misdiagnosis.