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Cheap Fast Eyeglasses from a Desktop Fabricator

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  • by BWJones (18351) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:40AM (#8339116) Homepage Journal
    Griffith's thesis research is actually on "programmable self-assembly, how to make things automatically make things," he said.

    This is the really interesting scientific angle of his work, and based on this, I would say that this small $30k prize is only the beginning for this guy. This approach demonstrates a unique perspective to problem solving that shows how innovative folks like Saul are. But perhaps more importantly for the future of science, science education, and the overall good, he has a social conscience that allowed him to identify a problem that affects people worldwide and has found an innovative solution that does what we all should aspire to do: Make a difference.

    And he also makes the rest of us scientists look good. :-)

    Good on you Saul.

    • by Simonetta (207550) on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:30AM (#8340165)
      I have wondered if it were possible to make a program that could help determine the shape of the corrective lens needed for a vision defect.

      Since with high resolution monitors and 256 (or more)levels of gray available, it should be possible to create an 'eye chart' that looks bleary and out-of-focus to a normally-sighted person but sharp and clearly-focused to someone with deformed vision.

      I imagine a program where the user can adjust the software implementations (precise changes on the screen regards to the blurring of the chart characters that mimic the effect of an individual lens) of the various corrective lens stages of an eye exam. When the user is seeing clear and focused characters on the eye chart, the program would know from the distortions of the normal chart needed to create this clarity exactly what the eyeware prescription would need to be for this individual user.

      The user could send the eyeglass perscription to a off-shore eyeware maker and get perscription glasses made at a tiny fraction of inflated American prices. Or order the glasses made by the method developed by the subject of this article.
      • by R_Harrold (669587) * <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @12:00PM (#8340393) Homepage
        A device similar to this already exists Last time I went in to a new optometrist they had a gadget which they had me look into which 'automaticaly' determined my prescription by (I Assume) measuring the distortion experienced by a low power laser shined into my eye. The result was fairly close to my actual prescription and would be quite close enough especially if you didn't have ready access to the miscellaneous additional gadgets required to really fine-tune a prescription. Another note is this, I'll use a nearsighted person with astigmatism for this example, The variables for each eye are: Spherical Abberation: Negative number measured in .25 increments ranging from 0 (no correction) to -8 or more (lots of correction) Astigmatism: Abberation measures in .25 increments ranging from 0 to the amount of spherical correction. Axis: The axis along which the Astigmatism occurs (I don't know what the increment for this is, This one has been constant for me for the past 20 years so I haven't seen much in the way of samples... I do know that 70 degrees and 110 degrees are valid values) Note that I am not an Optometrist, so someone who is more aware should feel free to correct me, but If I make the following assumptions we end up with quite a large problem to be placed on a chart: Spherical: 0 to -8.5 -- 34 possible Astigmatism: 0 to Spherical -- 0 to 34 possible Axis: 0 to 180 degrees in 10 degree steps -- 18 possible lots of combinations spring to mind, I'd say go with the existing automated machines. Possibly combine the marketing for the automated lens fabrication with a program to encourage optometrists to donate their older 'automated prescription baseline devices (or whatever they are officially called'.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Since with high resolution monitors and 256 (or more)levels of gray available, it should be possible to create an 'eye chart' that looks bleary and out-of-focus to a normally-sighted person but sharp and clearly-focused to someone with deformed vision.

        This will not work - a patient with poor eyesight will see everything on the monitor with greater bluuriness than a person with perfect sight.
      • by jridley (9305) on Friday February 20, 2004 @12:16PM (#8340543)
        No, not possible. Blurry vision will make a blurry object blurrier. There's a difference between a blurry picture and a picture seen blurrily.

        If what you propose were possible, it would be possible to fix the focus on an out-of-focus picture; after all, a camera with the focus set too close is exactly the same as a near-sighted person.

        You could put a lens in front of the monitor to blur it optically in the right way so that the person with blurry vision would see clearly. Move same lens closer to patient, and it's their glasses. Obviously, we've had this technology for a LONG time...

        It's possible that holographic displays, if they existed in the real world, could do this.
  • by Gil2796 (585952) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:43AM (#8339145)
    ... Doctor Saul Griffith of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and inventor of the Lego powered chocolate printer and eyeglass moulder was awarded the Lemelson-MIT Doctoral Prize for inventing a device that cheaply and easily mouldes edible chocolate eyeglasses!
  • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:43AM (#8339146) Homepage
    Desktop fabrication is going to be an interesting one to watch.

    Imagine downloading and printing a new bowl for your food processor, or a new toy for your kid.

    Imagine, too, the anguished hand-wringing of corporations over the illegal distribution of copyrighted object designs over the Internet.

    Imagine, too, the anguished hand-wringing of governments when the technology reaches a point where you can print parts for an AK-47.

    My bet is it's going to be quite the roller-coaster ride when it gets here, and that it's closer than we think...

    • by ktanmay (710168) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:49AM (#8339180)
      I wonder how you're planning on getting the raw materials for all that, this isn't about turning straw into gold.
      • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:57AM (#8339265) Homepage
        I wonder how you're planning on getting the raw materials for all that, this isn't about turning straw into gold.

        Well, shit. There go my plans for a straw-fueled desktop fabricator.

        If only there were some cheap, readily available metal...or perhaps a resin of some kind that wouldn't force me to mortgage my mom's basement...hell, I'd even settle for some kind of plastic that I can get my hands on for less than fifty thousand dollars an ounce.

        Think, dammit, think...

      • by Trolling4Dollars (627073) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:58AM (#8339282) Journal
        A suggestion:

        3D Printers []

        After all, laser printers used to be incredibly expensive, but they have become inexpensive enough that if someone NEEDS one at home, they CAN afford one. Alternatively, in jet technology has brought down the price to high quality low volume printing at home. The same will happen with 3D printers. Especially, if you think about all of the packing foam and other recycleable materials we throw away right now. It really would be the ultimate in recycling.

        Now all we need to do is make sure that Linux can support them. I used to say that Linux developers should be focused on alternative human interface devices, I will now add alternative/new output devices. If we have support for them before anyone else does, that's yet another "killer app" for Linux. ;)

        • by Anonymous Coward
          If we have support for them before anyone else does, that's yet another "killer app" for Linux.

          I don't know if you're being serious, sarcastic, or what.
          What was the first "Killer App" for Linux?
        • Fwiw, your sig has a problem - it should be "A wedding is a ritual..."

        • 3D printers are cool.

          But they rely on the properties of a liquid goo turning to a solid when hit with UV lased light.

          They can make three dimensional objects by simply lowering the object into the goo and adding more layers.

          But you are still left with an OBJECT MADE OF THE HARDENED GOO. Great, it breaks, it's toxic, has no heat tolerance, and needs to be smoothed and screw holes tapped in it.

          It's a great tool for manufacturers and those that develop machines and parts and stuff.

          To make a USEFUL part ou
          • I've worked with the stuff you're talking about on one project. You're right, it's somewhat delicate. But you're assuming that it's impossible for the process to be improved. In the early 1900s, the motor oil in cars had to be changed every few hundred miles. Nobody said "This car thing will never work because the oil sucks". No, they hit the lab and developed better oil.

            My guess is that they'll develop a 2 stage process. The first stage will be like what we have now. Then some sort of baking or che
    • Oooh - when can I get one?
      I want to print some new CD-Rs so I can pirate more songs without having to go to the store ;-)
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:03AM (#8339320)
      Imagine, too, the anguished hand-wringing of governments when the technology reaches a point where you can print parts for an AK-47.

      The reason the AK-47 is the most common assault weapon in history is precisely that the design was made simple enough that they can be mass produced with very little in the way of machining experience. Forget printing, most of the parts in an AK-47 are stamped.

      • by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:13AM (#8339406) Homepage
        I used the AK-47 as an example for that very reason. It's already an easy weapon to manufacture and use, but you still need some form of metalworking facility to build one, and you need some experience with metalworking and gunsmithing to be able to produce a functional weapon.

        Now, if we reach the point where John Q. Malcontent can download and print the various parts of an AK-47 in the comfort of his own studio apartment in a matter of hours...

        • Now, if we reach the point where John Q. Malcontent can download and print the various parts of an AK-47 in the comfort of his own studio apartment in a matter of hours...

          Don't worry. Photoshop will pop up an error dialog if you try to print something it thinks is a weapon part.
    • by mchappee (22897) * on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:11AM (#8339390)
      > Imagine downloading and printing a new bowl for your food processor, or a new toy for your kid.

      Yeah, and imagine your child's disappointment when she can't have a new bike because there are no Linux drivers. :-)

      • However, you ARE able to print her Unicycle. All the cool kids have regular schwinns, but her unicycle is built to a much higher quality spec. Somepeople say unicycle people are elitist, but I don't see it. It has a very steep learning curve, to be sure, but once you're proficient, you can have just as much fun as if you had a regular bike. People might look at you funny, but it's ok, because you're among a higher class of the Unicylerati.

    • by nharmon (97591) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:30AM (#8339540)
      Imagine, too, the anguished hand-wringing of governments when the technology reaches a point where you can print parts for an AK-47.

      When the printing of guns is outlawed, only outlaws will be able to print guns.
    • by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:30AM (#8339551) Homepage Journal
      Imagine, too, the anguished hand-wringing of governments when the technology reaches a point where you can print parts for an AK-47.

      A desktop robot that can mould and carve soft plastic is one thing, but machining a gun barrel from iron alloy is another. It's much harder in both senses.

      And unless you want to design a desktop iron smelter, you'd also need to give it just the right lump of metal alloy.
    • And you think printer cartridges are expensive now!
    • Read Neal Stephenson's, "The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer". And while your at it, read everything by Neal Stephenson. It's been mentioned round here by others [].
    • Imagine downloading and printing a new bowl for your food processor, or a new toy for your kid.

      Please don't make me imagine that. My boy already has way too many toys as it is without being able to print more. Every floor in the house is covered with little bits and pieces or puzzles, blocks, etc.

      What I'd rather have is a Mr. Fusion on my desktop where I can drop whatever annoying electronic toy of the week he's playing with and recover some of the energy that went into making it.

  • by donnyspi (701349) <junk5@donnysp[ ]om ['i.c' in gap]> on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:44AM (#8339149) Homepage
    ..."in about an hour?"
    • Better (Score:5, Informative)

      by NoData (9132) <.moc.oohay. .ta. ._ataDoN_.> on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:50AM (#8339191)

      He does it in about 5-10 minutes.

      FTA: ...he created a portable device similar to a desktop printer that can produce any prescription lens from a single-mold surface in five to 10 minutes.
      • Actually, most single-vision prescription eyeglasses that you buy at Lenscrafters can be done in about 5-10 minutes; only really strong prescriptions (or bifocals or progressives -- any lens you actually have to grind and polish in the lab) take an hour, and even those usually only take 40 minutes or so.

        One-hour labs carry a huge stock of pre-ground, polished and coated single-vision lens blanks around 75mm in diameter. All the lab techs have to do is edge the lens so it fits the frame of your choice.

        I wa
  • Fool (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Best of all, he's motivated for the good of humanity.

    I'm sure he'll be overjoyed when he graduates, finds himself unemployed and realizes just how much money he could have made and helped the world by patenting his invention and licensing it out.

    • Who's the fool? (Score:2, Informative)

      by heritage727 (693099)
      If you'd RTFA, you would have noticed that the device is patent-pending.
      • And you'd have seen a quote from him stating "I'll get this company going and self-sufficient, providing glasses to third-world nations, and I'll make money elsewhere." He invested the 20k portion of that 30k prize in his company mentioned in the post. The other 10k went to his Thesis advisor.
    • Re:Fool (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Denyer (717613)
      True... to an extent. The 'best' solution involves holding the patent, and letting people use it for humanitarian work for free.
    • Re:Fool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Eagle5596 (575899) <slashUser AT 5596 DOT org> on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:56AM (#8339249)
      He is patenting the device, and I for one applaud him for letting people use it. Where has our world gone that we call humanitarians fools? Last I checked, "you can't take it with you", and when it comes down to it, with the brains he has, I am sure he will find a job, especially as a Doctoral candidate. I applaud him for thinking of the wellfare of others before thinking of a new sports car like most of america.
    • Re:Fool (Score:2, Funny)

      by Waffle Iron (339739)
      No, he's making the lenses for the benefit of humanity. For his own benefit, he'll be offering special UV, anti-glare and scratch-resistant coatings, custom tinting, a line of exclusive designer frames, a mantenence and checkup program, and a two-year comprehensive protection plan.
  • thank god (Score:5, Funny)

    by WormholeFiend (674934) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:45AM (#8339154)
    I was starting to go blind from looking at all the pron on the internet.

    thanks to this man, I will now be able to see better, faster and cheaper!
    • From the article - "The current device uses car window tinting film for the membrane and a reservoir of baby oil for applying the correct pressure."

      Looks like you're going to have to switch lubricants too...
  • I predict... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pirogoeth (662083) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:45AM (#8339156) Homepage Journal
    Hmm, a device that can automatically figure out your prescription, and another that can make cheap eyeglasses?

    I see these popping up all over the place, like the "check your blood pressure here" devices.

    If it means that more people who can't afford vision correction can get glasses, whether in a poor country or not, I'm all for it.
    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:12AM (#8339398) Journal
      How about those of us who rather were glasses or contact then having someone cut at our eyes with a laser? -5 ain't so bad as being blind thank you very much.

      But seriously this guy made two wonderfull inventions. They now collect "old" glasses to send to third world but this is a logistics nightmare.

      Imagine a simple jeep outfitted with these inventions doing the rounds in poor areas. Put the tester on and voila few minutes later a pair of glasses. 1 day per village. Couple of jeeps. Shouldn't take long at all (after all it is not like glasses need to replaced that often, even in the west once a year is good enough even for still growing kids).

      As far as I know it ain't the material that is costly in glasses but the whole distribution process. Plenty of bargain chains around that can offer really really cheap glasses due to scale and not offering specialist lenses. This looks even cheaper for hard to reach areas.


    • If it means that more people who can't afford vision correction can get glasses

      Laser vision correction is only viable for a certain subset of lens-correctable conditions, and isn't a good idea if your vision problem isn't static, i.e. you need a different prescription every couple years. Then there's those who don't feel glasses are so bad that they should risk eye surgery to get rid of them

      "afford" isn't really the issue for most people.

    • Re:I predict... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by buckeyeguy (525140)
      Depends... are the molded lenses of 'final-use' quality, or do they need some sort of finishing or polishing after the mold process? Then there's shaping the outline of the lenses to match the frames, edging them for stability and glare reduction, etc. Creating plastic lenses that you'd want on your face all day probably taks a bit more than just molding.
    • Re:I predict... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zeux (129034) *
      And it's also better for the countries with a social security system.

      At least Iknow that in France the government gives you money (not all the money you need but still) when you buy new eye-correction glasses, both for the glasses and the visit to the doctor to get a prescription.

      It's very expensive for the government and this device could help lower the bill so the spending could be used somewhere else.

      Very good stuff and interesting possibilities here.
  • Well... (Score:5, Funny)

    by telstar (236404) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:46AM (#8339162)
    I didn't see this one coming...
  • by youngerpants (255314) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:46AM (#8339165)
    On machines building machines, obviously starting with the T-100 series
  • Doll face? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Halloween Jack (182035) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:47AM (#8339168) Homepage
    Griffith... imagines that mass-produced dolls could be individualized by giving each a discrete face.

    Get the Real Doll [] [NSFW] people on the phone, stat!
  • by badmonkey (29600) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:49AM (#8339182) Journal
    I could have sworn one optometrist i went to a few years ago had a machine that automatcially brought an image into focus for me. Way cooler than this stone-age notion of looking at the eye chart as the "doctor" flips lenses. Which one is clearer, one or two. Why do we keep doing this stone age crap?

    I'm all for automatic vision testing, I feel like my current prescription was issued by a talentless hack.

    Automatically testing vision and cranking out lenses is sweet. Next they just need to fire on an AR coating and everyone is good to go.
    • I could have sworn one optometrist i went to a few years ago had a machine that automatcially brought an image into focus for me. Way cooler than this stone-age notion of looking at the eye chart as the "doctor" flips lenses. Which one is clearer, one or two. Why do we keep doing this stone age crap?

      Are you sure you wern't abducted by aliens? Check the back of your neck for implants, and your ass for an antenna. Sure signs.

    • by lish2 (194441) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:36AM (#8339619)
      You are correct, they do have machines that can automatically determine your prescription. However, they aren't 100% accurate. Generally a good optometrist will do that, then also use that as a factor in where to start the "flip the lenses" bit. Since they have a suggestion of where to start, so it goes much faster. But they still do the manual proceedure. If the two agree, great. But relying on the automated one without any sort of "sanity check" on its accuracy isn't a good idea.

      Also I'm not sure the machines work on determining astigmatism.
    • I, too, used something like this, but I think it is only used for partially determining the prescription. After he used the computer, he still used the little flip lenses to determine my prescription.
    • Yeah, all the eye tests I've had in the last few years have started with the machine. I'm told that some places just use the machine, but I've never seen one and I wouldn't go to one.

      I go to the eye doctor to have my eyes checked. This is more than just get the correct glasses. The doctor needs to look in my eye and make sure that all the pieces are still in place.

      I've heard of several different problems that need to be checked for once in a while. They all have complex medical names that I haven't

  • by Sporkinum (655143) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:49AM (#8339185)
    To resolve this problem, Griffith has created a prototype device to test the human eye. Patients need only wear the device, which looks like an oversized pair of goggles, and look at the world around them. An electronic sensor superimposed on the goggles monitors the lens in the wearer's eye and adjusts the device's lens to cancel the refractive errors, thus determining the correct prescription.

    This sounded like even cooler tech to me. I like the idea of something that takes away the subjectivness of the traditional exam for a prescription. He could even throw a glaucoma tester into the goggles.
  • Ah crap... (Score:3, Funny)

    by HenryFjord (754739) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:49AM (#8339190) Homepage
    The pr0n is out of focus again. Time to print off some new glasses.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:51AM (#8339209)

    and this folks is what being a real team player is all about, in society where we tell our children that greed and selfishness is bad yet buisnesses teach us the exact opposite , that greed is good and if you are not making 500$ a second profit you are failing, these sorts of things dont come round enough, ask yourself why are you here ? to be a wage slave or to make a real difference to peoples lives

  • by Eagle5596 (575899) <slashUser AT 5596 DOT org> on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:51AM (#8339214)
    I'm interested in the uses of this machine behind eyeglasses. I've been working on several projects where we are creating instrumentation, and have been surprised to find that optics are both difficult to find in specific diameters and focal lengths, and rather expensive when you do find the optics you need.

    While not a big deal to major corporations who don't balk at shelling out $20 a lens for custom work, for academic projects and independant research, that is a significant chunk of the cost of our prototype, considering the ease and realtive low cost involved in obtaining a microcontroller these days.

    I imagine that, since he can make eye glasses, producing DCX, PCX, DCV, and PCV lenses would be easy too. I'd love to see this kind of machine available at academic institutions for producing parts for research.
  • If only more people in the world were motivated by altruism rather than the almighty dollar...
    • Re:If only... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by leomekenkamp (566309)
      I don't see why it should be one or the other. Agreed, we've got a lot of Rambus, Enron and SCO alike companies, but there is also this company, or the body shop, which donates 10% of its profits to charity.
    • Re:If only... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheSync (5291)
      If you look closely at the site, you will see that to effectively get the eyeglass lens molders into work in third-world countries, they will depend on "microentrepreneurs" in those countries selling glasses for about $5 each. These people will, of course, be motivated by the almightly dollar (or rupee or whatever).
      • The point stands, Saul might have been able to make hundreds of thousands off of this device by restricting its usage, charging hefty fees to the micro-entrepreneurs, etc. increasing the cost of the glasses significantly. Frankly, I'm a little surprised MIT hasn't tried to take a bite, unless this was developed outside of MIT, or maybe they are taking a bite. I didn't see anything either way.
  • More power! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Call Me Black Cloud (616282) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:53AM (#8339232)
    inventor of the Lego powered chocolate printer

    I skimmed the paper, searched for Lego, and as it turns out he's really not uses Legos to power his system. It's merely built out of Legos. I'm disappointed...I thought he developed some sort of fusion generator, a la Back to the Future. Add a flux capacitor and a DeLorean and then I'll really be impressed.
    • inventor of the Lego powered chocolate printer

      I skimmed the paper, searched for Lego, and as it turns out he's really not uses Legos to power his system. It's merely built out of Legos.

      ...And I thought the printer was made out of chocolate.

      What disappointments!

  • simplifying sight (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JWG (665579) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:55AM (#8339241)
    glasses and eyesight used to be one of those really crazy scientific endeavours. how many of use have had huge, unwieldy glasses when we were younger, and trips to the optometrist were like going to some strange laboratory? things like this are fantastic, simplifying the field and making it more accessible to all. i heard about another system developed that can diagnose stimatism by analyzing the red-eye in a photograph. these kinds of scientific endeavours inspire others!
  • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:57AM (#8339261) Journal
    I hope his next machine makes the frames. The experiences of folks I know who wear glasses (I don't) has been that the lenses are not the biggest cost, it is the frames. Why do frames cost so damn much? I know super cheap frames would be fine for charitable aid to poor people just so they can see but the cost of your average frames, something that strikes me as pretty simple to make, is way too high in the US.

    Are frames really that complex and hard to make or is there a lack of competition in the marketplace?
    • by Flyboy Connor (741764) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:11AM (#8339388)
      Frames are fashionable. Their costs reflect their designer's "genius".

      I know the average geek can't appreciate fashion. And rightly so. But we have to deal with it.

    • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:18AM (#8339441) Journal
      There are cheap stores with cheap frames but they offer a very small selection.

      In more upbeat stores frames are closer to designer clothing. You pay because the costs of designing a new model is only spread over a few models. Ford Focus costs less then say the latest ferrari and that ain't just the cost of manufacturing.

      But yes for those in need a single frame design in a couple of sizes (for different size heads) is not that expensive. Just ask any army that used to issue soldiers with glasses. Or for that matter look at the cost of sunglasses.

      • Just ask any army that used to issue soldiers with glasses.
        HA! Then we won't need to market safe sex or distribute condoms to the third world either, because the BCG's will take care of it. (Birth Control Glasses)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      There are only a few fabricators of frames. Like almost every other business, the products are just rebranded. There are different types of frames and some do use more expensive materials. That said, there's a huge markup on frames in "designer" stores.

      Sometimes the lens themselves can be expensive if you have a weird prescription. There are also premiums charged for high-refractive lens (so you avoid the coke-bottle look), scratch resistance, tinting, etc.. These can add $200 to the cost of the lens depen
    • There's the fashion angle, but the frame makers also have a product that people truly need. What am I going to do, not wear glasses? I don't have a choice; I couldn't read the text box I'm typing in without them. It's a seller's market.

      I don't need or want the very latest style, but I do want a pair of glasses that fits, provides a decent field of corrected vision, flatters my face, *and* is comfortable and durable. This runs me a couple hundred bucks, but glasses are something I wear all day every day
    • by drox (18559)
      The experiences of folks I know who wear glasses (I don't) has been that the lenses are not the biggest cost, it is the frames.

      They must not have ghod-awful prescriptions like mine then. The lenses are still the most costly part of my eyeglass purchases.

      That having been said, I have to ask the same question: Why do frames cost so much? I see non-prescription sunglasses at convenience stores -- with frames not too different from what I'd want for daily-wear glasses -- that cost less than US$20. But ju
  • by dewboy (22280) on Friday February 20, 2004 @09:58AM (#8339274) Homepage Journal
    I want a desktop fabricator that can create a desktop fabricator.

    Mmm.... Recursion...
  • by pudge_lightyear (313465) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:01AM (#8339303) Homepage
    Wow... could it be that in a few years, traditional eye doctors will become obsolete, replaced by scientists and machine assemblers who never see a patient. I'm taking this from the guy who said he could see these next to the blood pressure machine in wal-mart.

    Could this be the writing on the wall for any similar "traditionally" professional occupations. If this is the case for eye doctors, which I'm sure didn't "SEE" this coming, I wonder what's next. Could there be a machine that analyzes your blood and prescribes through a vending machine your prescription?

    OR... could I be thinking the insane thinking that many slashdotters and other people do when this type of thing is first invented.

    Remember that cars were going to fly long before the year 2000.

    • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:27AM (#8339513)
      Eye doctors do more than just prescribe eyeglasses. They can also diagnose eye diseases and conditions, and refer patients to more specialized medical treatments. For example, the fact that someone's eyesight is decreasing could be due to blood vessels bursting inside the eye as a result of diabetes. A simple machine that just measures your eyeglass prescription cant check that.

      Comparing this with bloodpressure devices is silly. Any data about a specific measurement of a condition in the body has to be assessed along with other contextual data (other symptoms or lack thereof) to determine if there's a problem.

      So, until you can have a machine that can read all possible physical data outputs from a person's body, and analyse in real time all possible medical problems based on those measurements, I doubt doctors of any field will become obsolete.
  • by teamhasnoi (554944) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:10AM (#8339377) Homepage Journal
    Like Plastic Bicycles [] and Toys [].

    Here's his first glasses prototype! [] Welcome back to the eighties! ;)

  • by e.m.rainey (91553) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:17AM (#8339434) Homepage
    Get your mod points ready...

    I "like" how the story posters of slashdot are blinded by these bland phrases like "good of humanity". What exactly does that mean here? Is he giving it away for free? No, but it will be cheap. Is he opening the IP up? No, it's patent pending. In fact he's begining to sound like a (*gasp*) capitalist! And we all know they been knocked around here enough to be demonized. But unsuprisingly when a capitalist helps the poor by helping himself he's a put up on a pedastal as the savior of humanity, but if he helps himself by helping the rich or even just the middle class he's deridded as a scum sucking bottom feeder business man. Why the double standard, slashdot? Why? Is it because the motives seem more pure or somehow more righteous? That perhaps, because poor people get the short end of the stick all over the world that they don't just need help, but somehow deserve it too? That we are compelled to serve them? And when we don't feel compelled by this directive we've somehow failed at an obvious yet never stated goal of life?

    What this guy has done is great, not because it will help poor people but because he's been extremely clever. I hope he makes an assload of money. Of course once he does make a reasonable sum, some people will complain that his motives aren't pure anymore. One can only hope they can synthesize becoming rich and helping poor people in the same thought.

    • The poor need help, and this guy is giving them help, which many people don't do. Seriously, how hard is this to understand?
    • The difference (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Baron_Yam (643147) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:42AM (#8339677)
      Usually, there is no interest in finding solutions for the world's poor - because the profit margins are vanishingly small compared to selling things to the world's middle and upper classes.

      This guy is great because, while he will be trying to make some money (guy's gotta eat, you know), he engineered a solution for a problem everyone overlooked because despite the potential for improving a great number of people's quality of life, the potential profit margin was too low.

      Personally, I think he needs to package this system up and sell it and supplies to the four-eyed with money first. I'd like to be able to print out new lenses whenever I wanted, and if his process really is so much better, it would be cheaper than buying every couple of years from my optometrist.
    • by raisin (30710)
      Your post sounds more like an excuse to be bitter, even though it doesn't really have much to do with the person in question, or the story. You raise a really good point, but it's not particularly relevant here.

      It's awfully cynical to suggest that "good of humanity" and the slightest wiff of "capitalism" be so diametrically opposed. Abusive capitalism can always be a problem, but as it exists here, there's nothing to suggest that it's the least bit abusive. The business venture side of this project (http:/
    • by Hooptie (10094) on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:16AM (#8340020) Homepage
      After he receives his patent, you or anyone else will be able to see EXACTLY how this device works. This is how the patent process is supposed to work. In exchange for letting the entire world know about/study his creation he will, for a limited time, have exclusive control over the rights to manufacture it. According to R.K. Dewan & Co. [] (IP Attorneys) "An inventor has to disclose his/her invention in such a manner that any person, other than the inventor, skilled in the art should be able to work out the invention."

      Not "opening the IP up" would be manufacturing a "black box" that creates eyeglasses that cannot be opened or studied in any way, at least not without the lawyers/hit squad coming after you. The inventor would still have exclusive control over the rights to manufacture it, but no other person would be able to study it in any way.

    • by YellowBook (58311) on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:42AM (#8340261) Homepage

      I think you may be missing the point. It's good to help people. It's very good to make money by helping people. This is what's called Right Livelihood [] in Buddhism. It's one of the components of the Noble Eightfold Path.

      I don't think most Slashdotters have anything against a free market. I certainly don't. What I do object to, however, are business models that rely on distortions of the free market: state-enforced private monopolies in land, raw materials, and information; the externalization of the costs of production (e.g., pollution, paying less than a living wage so that the state is forced to step in to prevent poverty, not paying health care so that the cost of the uninsured is pushed off on the state and on hospitals), the exploitation of workers (as above, but also lockouts, the use of private or state violence to break strikes, company towns, slavery, etc.), and the use of deceptive marketing to avoid the free-market ideal of a fully-informed consumer. All of these things are part of capitalism, but they're not part of a free market. Rather, they are deviations from a free market that benefit the class of people that already own property. For a look at what a real free market would look like, read up on Mutualism [].

      What's good about this story is that the business plan uses a real free-market solution to do well by doing good. Not only should it dramatically reduce the cost of glasses in underserved parts of the world, it will also provide "micro-entrepeneurs" [] in poor areas to make a living while doing so. When done properly, a free market can benefit everyone. However, the non-free market we call corporate capitalism doesn't do this.

  • by Zangief (461457) on Friday February 20, 2004 @10:21AM (#8339461) Homepage Journal
    He is sued by the people who makes the eyeglasses today?
  • by shokk (187512) <ernieoporto@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:04AM (#8339894) Homepage Journal
    Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age [] was a good fiction book on the effects of a society where people have their own personal matter reconstruction equipment. Those with the cheap units are subjected to lives full of cheap commodity throwaway (but completley recyclable!) things, while those with more money for the better equipment can have better, higher quality things. And those able to afford real hand-made objects seem to hold themselves above all that.
  • by martin (1336) <> on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:11AM (#8339961) Journal
    The best bit of this is the automatic it actually finds the correct lens for you eye.

    At last something can put on your face and a few minutes later have a correct setting for the lens you need.

    I'm sure all the opticians/optomatrists will be sad to loose they jobs (or at least part of the job) to and automated system .But this has got to make to whole process so much easier especially when trying to prescribe lenses for young children or those with communication (eg speach) difficulties.

    The fact it then goes off and quickly makes the lens is purely a plus point in my view.
  • History (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jafac (1449) on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:32AM (#8340173) Homepage
    If you read about the history of eyeglasses, you'll learn that back in the middle ages, when what we, today, call "proper" eyeglasses (not just a simple magnifier, but a lens that corrects for nearsightedness or farsightedness) - were invented, in Venice Italy, their fabrication was a carefully guarded trade secret. Corrective eyeglasses were for the extremely wealthy only. Among the extremely wealthy, of course, were the keepers of this secret.

    Think about the millions of people who were functionally blind, and could not afford glasses due to this trade secret.

    And now - due to openness of the technique, and this new technology, optical health insurance (and the incredibly obnoxious markups on lenses and frames that came with it) may no longer be necessary. Let's hope so.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Friday February 20, 2004 @11:50AM (#8340316)
    The discount eyeglass makers in my city are offering two pairs of glasses with frames & lenses (subject to some extreme prescriptions) plus eye exam for $69. Can this new technology keep up with the relentless cost-cutting in conventional technology?
  • by schwatoo (521485) on Friday February 20, 2004 @12:33PM (#8340674)

    No pun intended.

    I have keratoconus (basically a deformity in the cornea) and some days I can see fine and some days things are a little blury. The only solutions are either rigid contact lenses (ick) or cornea replacement surgery (double ick). Glasses aren't much of a solution for me because my eyes shift so much that a prescription would maybe last a month or two at most.

    Maybe with this device I could cheaply fab lenses that would work for me until my eyes morph again. And then all I'd need to do is fab another pair.

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday February 20, 2004 @01:48PM (#8341552) Homepage
    Automatic eye testing has been around for a while. The first units appeared in the 1970s. Today, the technology is quite good. The Canon RK-F10 [] ("just press start") does a fully automatic "refraction" eye exam. Price is about $7000. This unit is overkill for just fitting glasses; the identical-seeming next model up in the same family ($12,000) collects the data needed for laser eye surgery and contact lens fitting, with all the liability issues that involves. So there's an opportunity for something more compact and at a lower price point.

    It's too bad the original article doesn't say anything about how he makes lenses.

    The current trick in low-cost eyeglass distribution for the third world is simply to use a kit of low-cost preformed round plastic lenses. Basic eyeglasses have a spherical component, a cylindrical component, and an axis for the cylindrical component. The lenses are round, and can snap into the frames at different rotations, the number of different lenses needed goes down to a hundred or so. And the whole kit fits in a briefcase.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.