Not stylish, but they work

Oxford Physics Professor Joshua Silver wants to offer glasses to a billion of the world’s poorest people by 2020.

He, and the U.S. Military, have already donated 20,000 of them in Africa.

The brilliance of his design is that they don’t need a prescription. Just tune them until you can see well:

The wearer adjusts a dial on the syringe to add or reduce amount of fluid in the membrane, thus changing the power of the lens. When the wearer is happy with the strength of each lens the membrane is sealed by twisting a small screw, and the syringes removed. The principle is so simple, the team has discovered, that with very little guidance people are perfectly capable of creating glasses to their own prescription.

What an insanely brilliant idea! 

But I don’t think the brilliance extends to deployment. He seems too hung up on helping poor people directly. Sometimes a bit of indirection is needed.

Let multiple commercial sellers profit from selling them and they will figure out how to scale up and reduce the price.   Why set a goal of $20, when they could be as cheaply made as the more complicated toys McDonalds includes in happy meals?

It’s too bad that the inspiration that thought up such a cool idea is so hidebound by altruism as to how to get the idea onto the eyes that need it.

Profit… it isn’t a bad thing.