Contact lenses offer a more comfortable alternative to wearing glasses for those with vision issues, but that’s assuming you can handle/endure the process of putting them in and taking them out. A Florida man has invented a robot that can insert and remove contact lenses for someone who can’t, although seeing it in action suddenly makes glasses more appealing.
Besides the anxiety of placing a foreign object directly on your eye and getting your fingers so close to such a sensitive organ, wearing contacts can be hard for those with mobility issues or disabilities who lack the ability to hold their hands steady enough, or the dexterity needed to safely insert and remove the tiny lenses. Inventor Craig Hershoff had similar experiences, which led him to design and engineer a robot that can insert and remove contact lenses without the wearer having to do anything other than holding their eyelids wide open.
The robot is specifically designed to handle what are known as scleral contact lenses, which create a tear-filled dome over the eye’s cornea to correct complicated vision problems that other solutions, like glasses or regular contact lenses, cannot. For many patients, scleral lenses are the only option, and if they’re unable to properly insert and remove them on their own, they often have to just learn to live with the condition.
The robot, which also offers voice activation for a completely hands-free operation, relies on small suction cups to securely grab onto the lenses, and is a next-generation version of a manual contact lens removal tool called the Chio that Hershoff invented years ago. For those who don’t wear contact lenses, the device looks a little like something out of a horror movie, but in reality it could make a common solution for several vision problems available to a wider audience. The robot is currently undergoing a clinical trial in Boston, and Hershoff is hopeful it could get clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sometime next year so that it can be made available to those eager to have a robot poke them in the eye.
Update, 4:07 p.m. EST/EDT: Craig Hershoff has reached out to us clarify that not only are the robot’s motions more gentle than manually inserting a contact lens, but during the process, the user’s other eye (the robot processes just one eye at a time) sees a live video feed of the insertion which the user has complete control over, making the entire process feel less scary.