Bringing the Idea to Life
“With a popsicle stick, an LED and some willing volunteers – including a cat – I was onto something.”
I’ve always been amazed by ‘pound shops’ – how can things be manufactured, packaged and shipped around the world with middlemen and mark-ups and still be so cheap? Combining a knowledge of optics and electronics, I figured I could create something low cost too. With zero thoughts about business plans or world blindness – it was just a fun weekend challenge to simplify the ophthalmoscope, making it lighter, cheaper, and maybe even better.
The laws of direct ophthalmoscopy optics don’t change, so my first approach was to strip out almost every feature on scopes that are designed to last a career, so that all it could ‘do’ was ophthalmoscopy and nothing else. LEDs are bright and very small, and can be mounted directly below the sight hole facing the patient; removing the mirror and optics allows the device to have a slim profile, letting users hold it close to both their own and the patient’s eye for a clear dust-free view (Figure 1). The first prototype – which took 10 minutes to make – was a plastic popsicle stick with a hole and an LED. I tested it on a young cat, then a dog, a child, a middle-aged person, then a pensioner – in order of ascending eye and pupil viewing difficulty. A wooden size and shape mock-up followed. With the basics sound, better prototypes came, adding in solar power and USB charging (Figure 2). Later, I fitted a loupe lens, realizing that with a bit of adjustment, it made a highly maneuverable otoscope.
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