The combination and proximity of technologies at the recent Vision Expo inspires one to envision what is capable in eyewear. One lens company and one frame company each independently introduced a biometric scanner that takes three-dimensional images of the patient’s face and translates the resulting measurements into precisely customized 3D-printed frames that perfectly fit the subject’s a

Combine a database of frames with a biometric scanner and a 3D printer together in a shopping mall kiosk, for example, and you have the makings of a vending machine that can print out customized frames in whatever style the user selects from the device’s electronic catalog.

Where would one get the lenses for these frames? Until lenses can also be 3D printed (which is actually in the works) patients will still have to visit their optometrist to have their refraction taken to get their prescription. Perhaps the shopping mall kiosk that prints 3D frames envisioned above could recommend a nearby optometrist who can get the job done.

There’s always the discussion that if people are able to get refractions and eyeglasses remotely then perhaps they will forego their annual eye exam, thereby putting their eye health (not to mention their overall health) at risk. The answer from those offering remote refractions and e-tail eyewear is that they are not looking to replace medical eyecare; they are just trying to simplify buying eyeglasses. Ultimately, with all of this refraction work taken out of the hands of optometrists, perhaps that will free up their time to provide more medical eyecare instead of measuring for prescriptions.

Also, with the growth of online retailing along with the buzz surrounding remote refractions, one might extrapolate the aforementioned scenario to the virtual world. From the comfort of one’s computer (or even on a mobile device) a person might someday take their refraction, virtually try on frames and have their Rx and frame choice sent to the nearest ECP with a 3D printer and edging machine and have their glasses waiting for them by the time they show up at the office. Then, it would be up to the particular practice visited if that person should be encouraged to get an eye exam or not. In this scenario, eyewear buying is simplified yet the optometrist can still be in the mix to provide medical eyecare.

It could happen.

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