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Eye on the Prize

Last November, a Media Lab doctoral candidate won the Collegiate Inventors Competition for his development of an inexpensive method for manufacturing eyeglass lenses. Selected from a pool of 198 entrants, Saul Griffith, SM ‘00, was one of six winners honored by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

An early prototype of his invention, a lens mold, is made of two flexible “membranes” that look like shallow dishes stacked upside down and bolted together (see “Spectacles to Spec,” TR, September 2001). Under pressure, the membranes’ curvature changes to match specific lens prescriptions. A chemical compound introduced between the saucers is then cured to form a finished lens.

Griffith’s long-term goal is to provide low-cost eyewear to indigent people around the globe. With Harvard Business School alumnus Neil Houghton, Griffith has formed a company called Low Cost Eyeglasses to turn the prototype into a product that might one day serve the requirements of the billion-odd people they estimate need but can’t afford glasses. “We are seeking partners in developing the technology further,” Griffith says, “and [we] are also working on low-cost refraction devices for the eye-testing component of the problem.”

As a winner of the competition, Griffith was awarded $20,000 and other prizes. His adviser, Media Lab associate professor Joseph Jacobson, received $10,000.


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