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This robot that removes contact lenses could be a game-changer

Published Nov 10th, 2020 10:18PM EST
contact lens robot
Image: Firefighter Montreal/Adobe

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  • A man has invented a contact lens robot that can remove and insert lenses for individuals who have trouble doing it with their fingers.
  • Craig Hershoff created the bot after his unsteady hands made it difficult to remove his lenses at night. 
  • The robot is currently in clinical trials and may soon gain FDA approval.

Your eyes are important. Poor eyesight can lead to a variety of problems, including chronic headaches and other nasty symptoms, and if you have issues with your vision you typically end up with either glasses or contacts. Trusting your vision to your own sometimes-unsteady hand while putting in a contact lens can be scary for a first-timer, and some people find themselves unable to use contacts out of fear that they’ll mess something up.

So, you can imagine how much trust you’d have to have in a robot to allow it to mess around with your contacts. A man named Craig Hershoff has invented a robot that does exactly that, and he hopes it will give people some peace of mind when it comes to inserting and removing their contact lenses.

While a robot that puts your contacts in sounds like the ultimate first-world luxury, Hershoff’s aim wasn’t to make things more convenient for everyday people as much as it was to help individuals with poor dexterity manage their contact wearing routine.

His invention was borne out of necessity, as Hershoff himself found himself struggling with shaky hands due to anxiety after the passing of his wife. His unsteady hands made it difficult to manage his contact lens routine, and so he went about developing the machine now known as the Cliara Lens Robot. Cliara is short for “Contact Lens Insertion and Removal Apparatus.”

While inserting each contact, the user looks at a video display that shows exactly where the contact is going, and since it’s a robot holding the lens, its mechanical “hand” is perfectly steady.

“It’s quite simple. The user looks straight down, and if the insertion is in the right eye, the left eye will be focused on a video display,” Hershoff told CNN. “The left eye will see a real-time video of the insertion of the contact lens into the right eye, allowing the user to track the motion of the contact lens at all times.”

“When they are ready, the user commands the device to go up to the eye and very sensitive force sensors detect contact and stop the motion of the device as the contact lens is inserted. After insertion, the device retracts downward.”

The robot isn’t ready for the market yet, but it might be soon. Because it’s a machine that manages something as sensitive as contact lens placement, it needs to go through clinical trials and testing and eventually gain approval from the FDA before it could be sold. Hershoff is hopeful that it will be available soon, and that it could be helpful for many people.

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