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Anyone Can Check Their Eyes at Home With This Origami-Style DIY Eye Test Costing Under a Dollar

A team at the non-profit L V Prasad Eye Institute has developed an instrument that can assess the severity of refractive errors of the eyes and help one decide if it is necessary to see an eye doctor.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if one could simply look into a telescopic device to check if one’s eyesight is deteriorating, before deciding to spend time and money visiting an eye doctor?
This is the goal that a team at the L V Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) in Hyderabad, a non-profit eye care institution, is trying to achieve with its innovative ‘Folding Phoropter’ design. The team has developed a phoropter, an instrument used to test different lenses to assess the refractive errors of the eyes.

Both myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) are caused by refractive errors in the human eye.

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“The best part about the product is that anyone can assemble it easily. This gives the person a sense of ownership because he/she has assembled it,” says Ashish Jain, who heads the project.

Anyone who has ever visited an optometrist is likely to have used a phoropter. It is the spectacle-like contraption that is perched on the nose to test different lenses.

It is important to emphasize that the Foldable Phoropter cannot replace an eye doctor to provide a medical diagnosis or let people know what power lenses they need. But it can tell a person if his/her refractive error is severe enough to merit a visit to the doctor.

The low-cost screening instrument will make it easier for people living in rural areas to decide if they need to make that trip, often long and costly, to visit an optometrist.

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.

The initial prototype for the phoropter was made from plastic. The model was further refined by an in-house innovation team at LVPEI. With this instrument they were able to conduct studies and establish proof of concept. But after showing that their design could work, the problem of making the product scalable and marketable still remained.

Dhruv Joshi, Technical Head of the Innovation Center at LVPEI, suggested that instead of plastic the body of the instrument should be made of paper. The idea was inspired by a microscope developed by Stanford professor Manu Prakash.He wanted to make the device out of paper to make it low cost and scalable so that it can reach to the mass.

The current model has the look of an origami piece but the core of the design is the two lenses and the ability to slide them into positions along the rectangular body. It is a two-lens telescopic system. “The patient needs to look through the device a fixed distance away from the designated target, and move the outer chamber inwards until the image just comes into focus,” the LVPEI website explains.

“The patient needs to look through the device a fixed distance away from the designated target, and move the outer chamber inwards until the image just comes into focus,” the LVPEI website explains.

Initially, when the instrument is introduced in the market, the LVPEI team plans to send volunteers to help people assemble and use the device. But the eventual goal is to send people kits and let them put the device together themselves with the help of a manual.

Since it is made of a sturdy variety of paper, the Foldable Phoropter is easy to manufacture, transport and assemble. There is no need for a large industrial operation to produce the device. The model can be laid flat and mailed in an envelope. And because it is made of paper the cost can be as low as Rs. 50.

The LVPEI team is in the process of getting a final validation for the product through a study.

Once this is done, they will be ready to distribute the Foldable Phoropter through the primary centres that are part of the LVPEI network; this could happen as early as next year. Find more information about the Foldable Phoropter here.

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