In the days before eye exams, the method for selling eyeglasses was very simple: the seller (often a jeweler) had a bunch of eyeglasses in various powers, and patients tried on one pair after another until they found the one that worked best. Clearly, it was an imprecise approach, and was limited to the inventory available in the store, or the travelling salesman’s wagon. On the other hand, it had one distinct advantage over the way we sell eyewear today: consumers knew exactly what kind of visual experience they were buying.
Today we can design and manufacture a lens based on specific individual parameters. Even so, patients don’t get the opportunity to try before they buy. They have to accept on faith that the new eyewear will work as well or better than what they’ve been wearing. That can cause anxiety, both for the patient and the dispenser, especially if the eyewear they are purchasing is more expensive. For that reason, many dispensers prefer to keep patients in the same lenses, however much they are surpassed by newer technology.
A true lens test-drive continues to be impossible, but new demonstration systems offer the next best thing, with animation and imagery that can bring the latest lens technology to life. Some of these systems are standalone, while others are bundled with try-on and measurement systems. Today, many are housed on tablet computers, which are both more flexible and less expensive than freestanding versions.
These systems can demonstrate aspects of lenses like the difference between standard and customized lenses, how AR reduces reflections and polarization reduces glare, and how photochromics work in various lighting conditions. These are all things lens manufacturers do with side-by-side photos on dispensing mats, but digital systems provide animation and interactivity that dramatize the demonstrations.
The most advanced systems, like ABS Smart Mirror, can show the wider visual field of a customized progressive using the patient’s own prescription. While this probably won’t be as dramatic as showing what the difference would be for a -4.00 Rx, it is much more realistic and avoids false expectations. Some systems use the tablet’s camera to show the difference as the patients looks around the exam room or the optical.
Most manufacturers and ECPs agree that these systems are best used as an enhancement to, rather than a replacement for, a consultation by a doctor or dispenser. Your word as an expert is always the most important element in helping the patient choose the best eyewear, but seeing is believing.
This blog entry was based on my cover story in the November issue of Vision Monday, called “Dynamic Demos.” For a rundown on the various types of demo systems available, and their use, check out the article at VisionMonday.com. I can’t honestly say the article is a masterpiece of journalism, but I bet my mom would.