Josh Silver demos adjustable liquid-filled eyeglasses

Josh Silver demos adjustable liquid-filled eyeglasses

I’m going to tell you about one of the world’s largest problems and how it can be solved. I’d like to start with a little experiment. Could you put your hand up if you wear glasses or contact lenses, or you’ve had laser refractive surgery? Now, unfortunately, there are too many of you for me to do the statistics properly. But it looks like — I’m guessing — that it’ll be about 60 percent of the room because that’s roughly the fraction of developed world population that have some sort of vision correction. The World Health Organization estimates — well, they make various estimates of the number of people who need glasses — the lowest estimate is 150 million people. They also have an estimate of around a billion. But in fact, I would argue that we’ve just done an experiment here and now, which shows us that the global need for corrective eyewear is around half of any population. And the problem of poor vision, is actually not just a health problem, it’s also an educational problem, and it’s an economic problem, and it’s a quality of life problem. Glasses are not very expensive. They’re quite plentiful. The problem is, there aren’t enough eye care professionals in the world to use the model of the delivery of corrective eyewear that we have in the developed world. There are just way too few eye care professionals. So this little slide here shows you an optometrist and the little blue person represents about 10,000 people and that’s the ratio in the U.K. This is the ratio of optometrists to people in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, there are some countries in sub-Saharan Africa where there’s one optometrist for eight million of the population. How do you do this? How do you solve this problem? I came up with a solution to this problem, and I came up with a solution based on adaptive optics for this. And the idea is you make eye glasses, and you adjust them yourself and that solves the problem. What I want to do is to show you that one can make a pair of glasses. I shall just show you how you make a pair of glasses. I shall pop this in my pocket. I’m short sighted. I look at the signs at the end, I can hardly see them. So — okay, I can now see that man running out there, and I can see that guy running out there. I’ve now made prescription eyewear to my prescription. Next step in my process. So, I’ve now made eye glasses to my prescription. Okay, so I’ve made these glasses and … Okay, I’ve made the glasses to my prescription and … … I’ve just … And I’ve now made some glasses. That’s it. (Applause) Now, these aren’t the only pair in the world. In fact, this technology’s been evolving. I started working on it in 1985, and it’s been evolving very slowly. There are about 30,000 in use now. And they’re in fifteen countries. They’re spread around the world. And I have a vision, which I’ll share with you. I have a global vision for vision. And that vision is to try to get a billion people wearing the glasses they need by the year 2020. To do that — this is an early example of the technology. The technology is being further developed — the cost has to be brought down. This pair, in fact, these currently cost about 19 dollars. But the cost has to be brought right down. It has to be brought down because we’re trying to serve populations who live on a dollar a day. How do you solve this problem? You start to get into detail. And on this slide, I’m basically explaining all the problems you have. How do you distribute? How do you work out how to fit the thing? How do you have people realizing that they have a vision problem? How do you deal with the industry? And the answer to that is research. What we’ve done is to set up the Center for Vision in the Developing World here in the university. If you want to know more, just come have a look at our website. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. Just a question. Do you guys think that eventually we can have liquid filled lenses that can be applied directly to your eyes?

  2. 'Brought to you by Rolex'; my cynical sense of humor got the better of me.
    Interesting piece. I'm moved to believe that this is a decent stop-gap measure and infinately better than nothing, but can't really understand how an inflatable, low-cost lens can really last more than a few weeks at best.

  3. If it's made by a moderately flexible but durable material, I don't see why they shouldn't be able to last for quite a long time. Actually, their flexibility might give them MORE durability against some types of damage. Anyway, if you can make a pair of eyeglasses that last for two months in constant use and cost about a dollar to make, that's quite an achievement.

  4. EYE glasses are VERY expensive the mark up is near 1000% My wife use to sell the blanks and contact lenses The Blank would go for 4 bucks you buy that blank for your glasses at 400 bucks

  5. Understood, Magnulus, but as one who works in the oil industry, and is well aquainted with hydraulics and seals, I am given to think that if something can leak, it will.

  6. That's a good point, actually. Didn't consider leakage. ^_^ However, I also expect idustrial-sized seals and hydraulics will be harder to get completely tight than a small, circular lens that is meant to never move again after initial setting.

    Of course, I'm neither in the oil industry nor optometry.

  7. I think it's fairly evident – the fluid is injected between two layers of thin plastic, causing one or both to flex, creating a lens. Adding the liquid increases the lens strength, and the screwdriver seals it so the syringes can be removed and the strength won't change.

  8. I'm guessing its rather simple: 2 transparent foils in a frame -> Adding liquid increases pressure, removing decreases it. And what you get are convex and concave adjustable lenses. I'm just guessing though.

  9. You don't need to read to be able to tell if a pair of glasses is better or worse. It's easier, but way harder to manufacture and cost goes up. Cost is what really matters when you want to serve 1 billion, not convenience and fancy adjustments.

  10. Maybe he could have explained the glasses. Like how they work for example? I learned more from the title than I did from the actual video.

  11. it seems that the video was more about the importance of correcting eye vision problems for a large amount of people, rather than the gimmicks of his device.

  12. You forgot to think abaout that is very unlikely, for any human being, that both eyes need the same prescription. Self prescribed liquid glasses are a breaktrough in that sense. It makes:
    1.- Reduce the ammount of unused eye-glasses that are never sold.
    2.- Can be adjusted to fit both eyes different prescriptions.
    3.- If price goes down, as any massive-distribution product, it can not be challenged.
    4.- Traditional glasses can still be selled to people that want to look fashionable.

  13. Maybe they could start a program similar to 1 Laptop Per Child? I'd buy a pair of these glasses at three times the current cost if two more went to people who could not afford them. At least until they find a way to bring the cost down.

  14. they are not exactly fashionable….and if u try to sell them in developed countries it will likely be crushed by big companies.

  15. u jsut have no understandin of how business works. u live in a fantasy world. be real. making a great invention is only one of many necessary ingredients in the success of a product.

  16. there is economics in everything. to ignore it is to doom it to failure from the beginning. theres a reason people like u never really contribute anything to the world. u just talk and fantasise about ur utopian world while other people get out there and figure out realistic ways to helping people out.

  17. first of all explain to me how those statements are in any way selfish

    second what does them not selling in developed countries have to do with them being given out in undeveloped? why do people have to buy a pair to donate money?

  18. now I want a rolex.

    and are there photochromic liquids that can be used for that kind of glasses? that'd be cool. I can't live without my transitions

  19. Id rather help the 3rd world with their problems so that they can advance economically to the point where they can afford Rolex. But you would rather them not exist since they are a capitalist company. Funny thing is, this video as well as the presentation of Josh Silver wouldn't exist if it were not for the donated profits of Rolex and others which come from that very thing you hate. Capitalism.

  20. With a free market you have the right to property and your own ideas and to with them what you please. How are those two things not fundamental parts of personal freedom?

  21. So what you're saying is that I'll have a giant client base if I move my optometry business to sub-Saharan Africa…..

  22. The difference between a $20k watch and a $200 one is that one deprives a fool of $20k, and the other deprives a person of far less money.

  23. I don't buy the modern PC argument that Africans are an untapped, valuable human resource. They seem to require much more resources for their output, at least in every 1st world nation they live in, or at least in the USA where I live. Despite educational funding exceeding the average, in Washington DC, a heavily African-American population, their output is one of the lowest test scores in the country.

  24. Pure capitalism is when markets are free, where people's money goes directly towards what they want and ONLY what they want. Communism says that a committee of people who can only use force to prove they are right, decide what is best for people. Communism is INTRINSICALLY elitist, but the elite is maintained by force. Capitalism results in an elite also, but who rise from compensation for production of products/services others highly value, an elite maintained by FREEDOM.

  25. Its not just about fashion. There is an entire subset of people who would buy these. In particular, those excited about new technology and how it relates to societal improvement. The idea that to make a profit, you have to appeal to the widest audience is just one old economic strategy. Increasingly, thanks to the wide reach of the internet, businesses can be more and more niche oriented and able to make profits (which I agree are important.)

    Search for "1,000 True Fans" by Kevin Kelly.

  26. the smaller ur niche, the smaller ur market, the less chance ur business will ever get anywhere.

    i also find it extremely hard to believe anybody would buy it in the West

  27. Of course, you're not taking into account the original reasons why some areas have heavy black populations and others don't. You can't just ignore the fact that low test scores lead will lead to a poor population, which will lead to a higher crime rate, which will result in lower performance in schools and so on. Its a negative feedback loop and its incredibly difficult to break out of.

    A subset of society was forced to live separate from the rest for generations. How do you recover from that?

  28. an interesting theory conveniently missing all the proper mathematical computations instead relying on such assumptions such as "modest expenses". Ironically the article also uses two examples of musicians at the end, one of which actually have yet to cover their capital costs.

    Finally, the article makes the idealistic assumption that one's market base will always increase (linear or exponential) and not once mention the consequences and possibility of losing customers.

  29. the problem with ur arugment chris (and im seriously not picking on you), is that there are other minority groups that came to this country heavily disadvantaged, lived in segragation, and had few rights but still became successful. i'm referring to Chinese and Japanese immigrants.

    I must admit that I am slightly concerned about the unhumanistic tone of hughtub but a lot of what he says I agree with.

  30. I like that you use the word 'came.' Its an important distinction that most blacks are distinct from other immigrants in that they were brought over here. They were property, not people. The same can't be said for the Chinese or Japanese immigrants. Did they have hardships? Of course. But rising up out of being a low working class, and rising up from being a former slave class (just barely even considered to be full people) is a big difference. Can we agree that the comparison is faulty?

  31. i think u bring up a valid point. but i dont think the difference is significant enough to support the idea that it was any easier for asian immgirants, who were also considered inferior.

  32. I'd like to know where you're getting your statistics from, because they reek of eugenics. On your page, you make references to unscientific concepts like de-volution through random mating. You have a gross misunderstanding of how evolution and genetics work. An Aboriginal australian has dark skin because of his genetic history of generations living greater solar radiation. Dark skin shows up all around the equator, not just in African blacks. In those environs they are more evolved than you.

  33. You don't understand. What you are arguing doesn't make sense in any scientific context. There is no inherent difference in the brain of humans from different "races" because we are all the same species. All race is, is the specialization over generations in response to environment. Dark skin for greater sun exposure. Light skinned to absorb vitamin D from low sun exposure. Barrel chested for high altitude.

    I hope you are aware what you are associating yourself with when you side with hughtub.

  34. Are you trying to claim that the only difference between races is.. skin color? If so, you are entirely ignorant of the depth of racial differences. A forensic scientist can determine the race just from the skull. An australian aborigine skull is easily identifiable from any other race also, and their more primitive traits explain their limited mental ability. Humans aren't immune to evolution. Yes race is a specialization to environment. Africa didn't weed out as many low IQ as Europe's.

  35. Oh I wouldn't want to be classed together with such great minds who supported Eugenics as Plato, Darwin, Galton, William Shockley, Keynes, H.G. Wells, Teddy Roosevelt and Alexander Graham Bell.

  36. The shape of the head does not affect IQ as much as you are saying it does. That one effect is insignificant compared to developmental factors such as nutrition and socialization. You simply can't determine intelligence with a tape measure around the head. Whoever convinced you of that had other motives than biology.

  37. The trend in human evolution has been towards larger frontal cortex, longer-term/analytical thinking. The African environment was fairly easy and didn't require this. Europe's Ice Age weeded out many who didn't plan for the long term. Even today, Europeans and Asians are less impulsive than Africans, choosing to work for the future rather than just do something for short-term gain at the expense of future gain.

  38. I'm done with this. I am physically nauseous now. I knew that some people still think this way, but seeing spelled out so calmly in front of me… My mind is just blown by the depth of your ignorance.

    I don't know what's worse, your blatant disrespect of other human beings or the disgusting distortion of science you're using to justify it. Clearly I'm not going to convince you. And I've made my case as plainly as possible.

  39. my views arent as extreme as hughtub but historically certain peoples have been more developed than others.

    that being said, it could be a result of culture as much as race. whatever the reason, it's pretty clear that certain groups of people tend to do better historically over others.

  40. It's a chicken/egg question. Does culture create genius, or do geniuses create culture? I maintain that every great idea throughout history was created by someone of high IQ, the accumulation of it results in a state of high civilization, dependent on the area's incidence of high IQ. If an area lacks people with high IQ and the means of memory (writing, books), they will advance much slower. There are some genes that do correlate with high IQ, and studies show IQ is majority inherited.

  41. Reality is what it is, and it benefits whoever fully embraces it. Ignoring parts of it that offend this era's sensibilities is an error, akin to ignoring the fact that the earth was round in the middle ages just because the church said it was flat. Egalitarianism has no basis in reality and is akin to a new religion forced on us.

  42. Right, because lions, hyenas, deadly snakes, deadly scorpions, murderous ants, killer bees, jaguars, leopards, wild dogs, tigers and hippopotamuses are all "simple" factors in their environment. Especially in comparison to an elk, or (heaven forbid) a sheep in Europe.

    Provide at least one source for your ridiculous claims. Some of us know how to spot bullshit when it's presented to us. Only if violence is akin to intelligence can you say we are more intelligent than other peoples.

  43. Classic example of psudo-science. Replace 'black male' with 'jews or gypsies' and you have the makings of ignorance to the Nth degree. Think like a scientist, find facts that might disprove your hypothesis. India's IQ has increased dramatically over the past 50 years, can you attribute this to evolution? Blacks in Japan have much higher IQs than that of their U.S. cousins, are their prefrontal cortex's more developed? Absurd. You shouldn't have an answer looking for a question. Think & research

  44. great invention, now all you need is a mod to adjust them at saved distances, with out the liquid, part but by a few lenses that can move and adjust light like the eye ball does.

  45. Simply love this video. Simple idea but very effective. It reminds me of thinking about adjusting just the thikness of lense with water filled globes which I used to think about in my high school. But this idea is so amazing that it can adjust the power. A Powerful idea………..

  46. ???? why can't a corner shop just offer two dozen 20 cent plastic glasses of different prescriptions? Customer just picks what "works" for them…??

  47. Since reading about these glasses in National Geographic I have raised the funds, got Kevin White, the retired marine in charge of GV2020 to come up to Winnipeg MB, Canada to send 100 of these glasses and 200 reading glasses out to Guatemala for February 2010.
    These things are AMAZING!!!

  48. These glasses are intended for people with no access to eye doctors. Much of the developing world cannot get eye glasses because there is nobody to make their prescription. These do that for them.
    Silver is NOT marketing them for the developed world and he is selling them at a loss of profit. He is no fraud. He is the real thing.

  49. I have personally bought a few hundred of these and they are going to be handed out in Gautamala in February of 2010 to the poor.

  50. @lemansbmwracer Well, I'm sure we all appreciate the heads up… but I'm gonna doubt that what you're saying is true. It isn't that I have any facts or know better personally… but if I had to choose between the word of someone who was invited to TED, and someone who writes in ALL CAPS LIKE AN IDIOT and says things like "I HOPE HE GETS JUMPED," I'm gonna go with the former until I hear something similar from someone respectable. Thanks though, really.

  51. @burn70u7 Yes and I so agree and not to stand up for rolex in anyway but I feel it's only fair to point out that I think Josh Silver was a winner for one of rolex's Awards for Enterprise which gives out funding and grants for people who come up with ideas to help people around the world, in various categories such as cultural preservation, health and medicine and environmental protection. I know what you're saying though and what they give back is just a drop compared to whats been done to EARTH

  52. Ummm…am I the only one blown away by this? The guy got up on stage & then unveiled something brilliant and got off stage in 5 minutes flat. I want to know more about this. I looked it up on Google but I can't find any place that sells these things. You don't have to be in Sub-Saharan Africa to appreciate this technology. I live in the United States & I wear glasses but I don't have a few hundred dollars for an eye exam, frame, and lenses. I really want to buy a couple of pairs for myself.

  53. I have about 120 in my office right now, I paid $20 each. The new ones go for about the same price at eyejusters (Google it). These are made by part of the same team that helped Josh. They work great together and then of course good cheap reading glasses. (My secretary is reorganizing them right now).

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