Low-tech goggles with user-adjustable water glasses

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Fourteen years ago, we covered a brilliantly designed pair of glasses with water-filled lenses. Created for users in developing countries by British inventor and Oxford professor Joshua Silverglasses obviate the need for opticians (which are rare in poor countries), as the user can pay for their own prescription.

The operation of the glasses is that a syringe filled with water is temporarily mounted on each stem and plugged into the glasses:

The user rotates the syringes back and forth, adjusting the amount of water in each lens, until they can see perfectly.

Once the user dials their prescription, the syringes are removed and the user has 20-20.

It looks pretty cool in action:

Today, Silver leads an organization called Center for Vision in the Developing World, which has supplied 100,000 pairs of its suitable eyewear to people in more than 30 countries. They estimate that they will have to multiply this figure a little, because “more than 2 billion people in the world today need glasses but do not have them”. They also cite that “100 million school-age children cannot read the blackboard in the classroom”.

CVDW ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2017 to raise funds to distribute 50,000 pairs of glasses to children in developing countries. The fundraising goal was $67,971, but they ended up with a measly $4,671, just 6% of their goal.

According to Radio Canada, the adaptable glasses only cost $1 to produce. So I wonder:

Could a revamped campaign be successful if it appealed to people’s selfishness, rather than just the ability to donate? What if it was “Buy one pair for yourself, pay enough to send multiple pairs to kids”?

For example, I would happily buy a pair of these glasses to use as reading glasses at home or in my store, where I have to wear a different prescription for woodworking, and pay an extra 50 or 100 pairs at send to the countries that need it. (I might even leave the syringes on, to fine-tune the detailed work.)

Likewise, I bet you could get people to pay between $20 and $100 for a pair of these goggles to use as a back-up/emergency goggle set. Target disaster preparers.

Personally, I wouldn’t wear them in public for fear of attracting attention (I’m a minority and live in a rural area where let’s just say there’s no one who looks like me). But if you could give these glasses a hashtag name and get Kanye to wear a pair, maybe people more carefree about their looks would find them hip enough to wear outside the home, and s would buy a pair and pay multiple multiples.

I hope Silver will revamp the campaign and relaunch it at some point.

Speaking of crowdfunding, remember that this week serial crowdfund-ee Craighton Berman is giving a free crash course on how designers can tackle it. It’s Wednesday, February 23 at 2 p.m. EST and you can register here. Professor Silver, if you happen to be reading this, tune in – I can guarantee the information will be worth your time, and your invention is too good not to fulfill its ambition.

If you have a project from last year that you are proud of, take a few minutes to send it to the Core77 Design Awards 2022. We have 18 practice categories, and for this year we have a special sustainability award for all projects that have a beneficial environmental impact. To verify designawards.core77.com for details and timetables.


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