Future/In-construction site of OptiOpia, Inc.: Affordable vision testing and prescription eyeglasses.
Affordable Technology for Eyecare
OptiOpia’s mission is to improve detection, correction and prevention of visual loss due to uncorrected refractive error. “Uncorrected refractive error” refers to near-sightedness (myopia), far-sightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism, including the far-sightedness associated with age (presbyopia). We are developing products to make and sell on a for-profit business basis, primarily in less-developed countries.
The first product addresses the greatest obstacle, the shortage (in many regions) of trained optometrists, ophthalmologists and special-purpose “refractionists” who can perform an exam to figure out whether someone needs corrective lenses and if so to figure out the right prescription (specification of the optical characteristics of corrective lenses). The auto-refractor allows a pretty good estimate of the right lenses to be made, thus speeding the eye exam of the trained practitioner and allowing the less skilled to do a good job, too. The OptiOpia auto-refractor adds -- to the existing, mature, well-understood product category in developed regions -- a device that is a break-through in cost, usability and public health value, a device tailored to the needs of emerging markets.The device will also help improve vision screening in both more- and less-developed regions.
The second product is an innovative lens molder, to enable on-the-spot 5-minute manufacture of good quality plastic spectacle lenses. Together, the OptiOpia auto-refractor and lens molder will create the world’s most compact optician’s shop – suitable for the back of the motorcycle of a mobile entrepreneur or for a kiosk within a larger retail outlet (e.g., a drugstore selling health and cosmetics, sunglasses and reading glasses, etc.).
Overview of Business Path
With lower risk, we will achieve break-even by selling to traditional eyecare customers through existing distribution channels; then, greater profits will be achieved by extending the primary eyecare market in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, India, China, etc. that are aptly named “emerging markets,” where a billion people need glasses and don’t have them.
OptiOpia is developing an innovative, patented lens-making system. It produces single-vision prescription plastic (UV-curable & thermoplastic) lenses, from a compact, computer-printer-sized device. The lens molder will eliminate complex distribution systems by producing lenses on site, on demand, in five minutes. The molder will deliver convenience and speed, yet reduce the need for working capital and training (human capital).
Chairman & Founder – Saul Griffith, PhD. Inventor. MacArthur Fellow 2007 (“genius grant”). Founder of several other technology ventures; Ex-CEO, Makani Power.
President & Founder – David Grosof, PhD, MBA. Ophthalmology professor, Washington University Medical School (St. Louis); Founder, Foundation for Vision Science.
OptiOpia’s founder and chairman Saul Griffith is named MacArthur Fellow
“Genius grant” recognizes Griffith’s inventions for meeting the need of hundreds of millions for affordable eyeglasses
A San Francisco Bay Area-based start-up had a good day Tuesday, September 25, 2007: one of its founders won a “genius grant” and was declared a “prodigy of invention in service of the world community.” OptiOpia, a company developing technologies for affordable quality eyeglasses and eyecare, proudly congratulated its founder and chairman Saul Griffith, Ph.D., winner of a 2007 MacArthur Fellowship.
“It’s great to have such a distinguished organization recognize our founder’s talent for coming up with creative solutions to important problems like uncorrected refractive error,” said OptiOpia’s president and co-founder David Grosof, PhD, MBA.
Dr. Grosof declared, “OptiOpia’s solutions are based on inventions Saul has spearheaded and made, and which were recognized today by the MacArthur Foundation: a low-cost auto-refractor to get the right prescription for corrective lenses and a lens molder to use that prescription for on-the-spot on-demand eyeglass lens manufacture. OptiOpia is developing and will deliver these gadgets to make quality eyeglasses much more affordable for middle income and poor countries and in addition to improve vision screening, especially of kids, in developed countries.”
The 2007 “genius grant” awards by the <http://www.macfound.org/> John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation were given to just 24 leaders, selected from all fields. Fellows were selected because of exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and the potential for the fellowship to facilitate more creative work. The Foundation states, "The fellowship is …. an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential."
Dr. Paul Polak, President of International Development Enterprises, recently described the promise of meeting basic human needs with market-based affordable technology: “A billion customers in the world are waiting for a $2 pair of eyeglasses.” At the extreme end of need, the World Health Organization estimates that more than 150 million people in the world are blind or severely visually impaired because they don’t have corrective glasses. Hundreds of millions more are less productive at work and school, and less able to walk, ride or drive safely, with serious consequences for public health, economic development and quality of life, all because quality affordable glasses and eyecare are not available to treat common refractive error (near- and far-sightedness and astigmatism).
Dr. Griffith declared, “Hundreds of millions of adults and children in the developing world need and deserve access to affordable quality eyeglasses. One big problem is obtaining the right prescription. There are not enough trained eyecare professionals in many communities. An auto-refractor that’s low-cost and robust, like the one OptiOpia’s developing, helps the less skilled get the right prescription and improves productivity of the more skilled. It would also be good to simplify the way lenses are made, so I helped invent a compact device to mold lenses. On-the-spot lens making simplifies distribution, reduces capital requirements and allows mini-optician shops to be developed in rural, urban and mobile settings.” Because markets can be sustainable, efficient and profitable ways to distribute affordable quality eyeglasses and eyecare, OptiOpia is a for-profit corporation with an office in Alameda, California, across the bay from San Francisco and was spun out of Squid Labs (Emeryville, CA) in 2006.
Like the MacArthur Foundation today and the Lemelson Foundation, which recognized Dr. Griffith’s promise as an inventor with the prestigious Lemelson-MIT Graduate Prize, OptiOpia is confident of the potential of Saul’s inventions to change the world -- and specifically to bring quality eyeglasses to those in need, sustainably and profitably.
First, Saul Griffith identified
· the need for more affordable and more practical means of objective refraction (to make an accurate prescription for adults & children) and
· the need for a more direct way to make eyeglass lenses.
To meet those needs, Saul Griffith tried several approaches; then he invented a lens molder, now patented, to make lenses on a desktop or off the back of a motorcycle. He prototyped and patented the molder. He designed and prototyped a low-cost auto-refractor; he found business and engineering partners to develop both inventions further. In 2001 he partnered with Neil Houghton, then a MBA student at Harvard Business School and now residing in Washington, DC, and with others to found Low Cost Eyeglasses, Inc. In 2004 following graduation from MIT’s Media Lab with a PhD, Saul moved to Emeryville, California, to co-found Squid Labs, a “do tank” of engineers (http://www.squid-labs.com), where the lens molder and autorefractor were developed further. In 2006, Squid Labs’ eyecare technologies were spun-off to create OptiOpia, Inc. -- the future of affordable eyecare.
In 2006 the Lemelson Foundation (Portland, OR) announced major financial support of OptiOpia’s mission to build vast “bottom-of-the-pyramid” markets for eyeglasses.
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OptiOpia's mission is to improve detection, correction and prevention of visual loss due to uncorrected refractive error. To improve vision screening in the US, EU & Japan, we are developing a low cost (~$200), wearable device that measures refractive error and enables accurate prescriptions with low training requirements and fast comfortable service.
Hundreds of millions in less developed countries have money but lack access to trained eyecare personnel, for which the testing device substitutes. In addition, we are developing a low cost lens making system that produces prescription lenses. This device will eliminate complex distribution systems by producing all lenses on site, on demand. This device will reduce the need for working capital and training (human capital).
For its commitment to apply technology to build vast bottom-of-the-pyramid markets in developing countries, OptiOpia is receiving a significant grant from The Lemelson Foundation.
Chairman – Saul Griffith. Founder, Inventor. President, Makani Power; Partner, Squid Labs; PhD: MIT Media Lab (Joe Jacobson advisor). Lemelson-MIT Graduate Prize winner. Inventor smart electronic rope (Time Magazine top invention 2005), co-founder ThinkCycle (open collaborative design), HowToons. Technical Advisor, Potenco. On September 25, 2007, the MacArthur Foundation awarded Dr. Griffith a MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the “genius grant.”
President – David Grosof. Co-founder, Theregen. Start-up consultant. Ophthalmology professor, Washington University Medical School (St. Louis); NASA Ames research scientist (retinal imaging and eye movements); PhD (visual neuroscience), UC Berkeley; MBA, MIT. Founder, Foundation for Vision Science. (Curiously: Post-doctoral scientist at New York University with MacArthur Fellow neuroscientist Robert Shapley; grandson of MacArthur Fellow art historian Meyer Schapiro.)
Clinical Consultant – Bruce Moore, O.D. (Doctor of Optometry). Marcus Professor of Pediatric Studies and Chairman of the Department of Specialty and Advanced Care at the New England College of Optometry, Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Moore is an internationally recognized expert in children’s eyecare and glasses, and has been active in both research and policy formulation to help diagnose and treat children who need eyeglasses and eyecare early enough to help them learn and to prevent the permanent visual impairment called amblyopia.
The name OptiOpia? The roots are
Opti as in optics and optimism; Opia as in myopia and utopia.