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DigitalVision Systems Goes Beyond the Phoropter

Unlike companies that have concentrated on modernizing the phoropter, DigitalVision Systems (DVS) has developed a refraction system that does away with the device entirely. For the past several years, the Atlanta-based company has been developing the VisionOptimizer, which it pointedly describes on its website as “a virtual refracting platform for diagnosing vision disorders and procuring customized eyeglasses that will provide better vision and viewing comfort than conventional eyewear procured using error-prone phoropter measurements.”

DVS was founded by Keith Thompson, MD, an internationally recognized refractive surgeon and entrepreneur/inventor with expertise in physiological optics. Among its board members are LensCrafters founder Dean Butler and noted optical entrepreneur/inventor David Chute.

Since 2009, Thompson and the DVS team have been developing the VisionOptimizer through a collaboration with Georgia Tech Research Institute’s (GTRI) Electro-Optical Systems Lab (EOSL), a leading developer of advanced optical technologies for the Department of Defense and industry. In the fourth quarter of this year or in early 2015, optical retail chain National Vision plans to install VisionOptimizers in some of its Atlanta area stores.

  Dr. Anne-Marie Lahr of Hoya Vision Care tries out a prototype of DVS’s VisionOptimizer at the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta. With her are Jose Garcia, head of the DVS’s engineering team (l) and company CEO Keith Thompson.
  The VisionOptimizer can demonstrate photochromic, polarized and anti-reflective lenses, as well as progressive lenses and other designs.
  An eye tracking technology is used to determine the patient’s head position in 3D space and their position of gaze.
“The VisionOptimizer replaces the exam chair and phoropter with a chair and tower,” said Thompson. “It’s easy to retrofit into any standard exam lane.

“The system is virtual in the sense there are not any bulky refraction devices stuck in front of patient’s face,” Thompson said. “It has refraction elements above the patient’s head, and a ‘viewpoint’ mirror across the room that patients will have a clear view of. The optics are projected into the viewport mirror, and the patient looks into the mirror and sees various images. It doesn’t block their peripheral vision. We can show them a Snellen chart, or images such as sports or a night scene.”

In addition to performing highly accurate refractions, the VisionOptimizer can effectively demonstrate progressive lenses and allow the patient to virtually compare different corridor designs. The system has an eye tracking device that is driven by two cameras that are just below the viewport mirror. The mirror moves under the direction of the tracking system, allowing the patient to have a stereoscopic view while freeing them to sit in a normal posture instead of having to sit still, as they would with a phoropter.

“We can determine where the patient’s head position is in 3D space, and their position of gaze,” said Thompson. “If the patient is wearing a progressive design, we would know what portion of lens they are looking through.”

The VisionOptimizer can also demonstrate photochromic, anti-reflective and polarized lenses. “We can put the patient on a beach and show them the benefits of photochromics in operation,” said Thompson.

Thompson said DVS partnered with several major lens manufacturers during its recently concluded alpha trials, and plans to expand its roster of partners as it prepares for a roll-out with National Vision.

National Vision’s CEO and president, Reade Fahs, said there are several reasons why DVS’s VisionOptimizer appeals to him. “It’s more accurate, it gives a more refined prescription than a manual phoropter,” said Fahs. “And it’s less frustrating for the consumer, because they’re not having to say if lens number one or two is better, when they may not be sure. With this, there’s no number two. There’s a dial on the side of chair, and you just turn the dial until your vision is perfect, and press down until you lock it in.”

Fahs added that he thinks the VisionOptimizer would make an optometrist more productive, especially in a high volume practice. It would also allow for better presentation of added-value lens options to higher-end clientele.

“It’s just plain cooler, it’s fun,” he said. “It feels modern, as opposed to feeling old fashioned. My feeling is when I look at something like this, I ask myself, ‘Would the world be a better place if this were available?’”