Inventor Joshua Silver modelling his spectacular invention.

A British atomic physicist is liaising with the World Bank on a revolutionary project to distribute spectacles to 200 million children in developing countries. Users will be able to adjust the glasses to their own personal prescription without help from an optician. “All users have to do is look at a reading chart and adjust the glasses until they can see letters clearly,” said Professor Joshua Silver…

Silver estimates that more than a billion adults in developing nations have poor eyesight. This seriously limits their education and employment prospects. He is now working with the World Bank and the Dow Corning Corporation – which makes the silicone materials used in his revolutionary glasses – to supply 200 million pairs of self-adjusting spectacles to schoolchildren in Africa and Asia. Ultimately, he hopes a billion pairs of the glasses will be made.

Silver, a professor of physics at Oxford University and director of Oxford-basedCentre for Vision in the Developing World, has created low-cost glasses that can be tuned by the wearer. His spectacles have “adaptive lenses”, which consist of two thin membranes separated by silicone gel. The wearer simply looks at an eye chart and pumps in more or less fluid to change the curvature of the lens, which adjusts the prescription.

Silver’s spectacles have two disadvantages, however. They currently cost around £15 a pair to make. “We have to get that cost down if we want to get these in numbers to children in Africa or Asia,” said Silver. “We are working on that, and I expect we’ll get the price down to around £1 a pair. At that cost, the plan to supply 200 million glasses becomes practicable.” Silver also acknowledges that his glasses – which have thick, round rims – are not particularly attractive. “If we want teenagers to wear them, we will have to make them less obtrusive and more stylish. In essence, we want to make them look just like standard glasses. I am very hopeful we will succeed.”

via Arbroath