The Folding Phoropter is a low-cost and easy-to-assemble eye test to quickly spot refractive errors, the largest cause of avoidable visual impairment in the developing world. Matthew Stock reports.
Origami has been around since the 6th century. But the art of paper folding is now helping to bring cheap eye care to the developing world. The Folding Phoropter uses the ancient Japanese custom to spot vision disorder, putting the power of diagnosis into patients' own hands. SOUNDBITE (English) ASHISH JAIN, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER, SAYING: "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." Following simple instructions, two pieces of card are folded together into two oblong boxes that slide into one another. Two lenses are then attached at either end. The patient looks through one end towards an eye chart, slowly sliding one box out of the other until the chart comes into focus. A reading on the side gives a quick, accurate, result. SOUNDBITE) (English) ASHISH JAIN, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER, SAYING: "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." It's currently being field tested to optimise usability, but with each device coming in at under 50 cents, its reach could be immense. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ASHISH JAIN, INDUSTRIAL DESIGNER, SAYING: "We should be able to reach at least 50 million people, and this will actually help us build this product in a better way." Poor eyesight affects an estimated 153 million people around the world, according to the World Health Organization. If diagnosed correctly it can be treated with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. The Folding Phoropter recently won $50,000 (USD) in funding, taking second place in the Clearly Vision Prize, part of the Clearly campaign that seeks to accelerate innovation in eye care.