Skip to main content
Move the World.
contact lens robot

Lead Image Courtesy of Craig Hershoff / Cliara

Contact lens users have to have a steady hand — too much movement and they might drop the lens or poke themselves in the eye.

For the millions of people with conditions that cause hand tremors, contact lenses aren't really an option. That's not a big deal if they can wear glasses, but some vision problems can only be corrected with contact lenses.

Florida resident Craig Hershoff was facing that very situation, so he came up with a solution to the problem: a contact lens robot that could do the inserting and extracting of lenses for him.

A Contact Lens Robot

In 2000, doctors diagnosed Hershoff with a disease that affects the cornea. He almost went blind from it, but with several corneal transplants and the use of a special kind of contact lens, he regained his vision.

When Hershoff's wife died, he began experiencing hand tremors due to anxiety. Those made it difficult for him to put in and remove his contact lenses, which caused him to wonder what he would do if he eventually couldn't put them in at all.

That concern inspired Hershoff to invent the Cliara Lens Robot (Cliara stands for "Contact Lens Insertion and Removal Apparatus").

The contact lens robot sits on a flat surface, and a person places their contact lens on a tiny upward-facing suction cup. They then lean forward, resting their forehead on the device so that the suction cup is under their eye.

Once they activate the robot using their voice, the suction cup rises until force sensors let it know that the lens has been inserted. At that point, it drops back down.

The process for removing a lens is largely the same, but in that case, the sensors let the robot know when the tiny suction cup has extracted the lens from the eye.

Eye Witness

To make the process less nerve-wracking for users, a camera displays the movement of the contact lens robot on a screen in front of the user's free eye.

"Any type of anxiety or nervousness is gone."

Craig Hershoff

"(Y)ou can see where the lens is going and exactly how it's being placed," Hershoff told CNN. "Any type of anxiety or nervousness is gone because you are controlling the device and it's extremely gentle and safe."

Clinical trials of the contact lens robot are currently taking place in Boston, and Hershoff is hopeful that he'll be able to secure FDA approval for the device in 2021.

If approved, he believes it could make contacts accessible to people with hand tremors, dexterity issues, or even just a fear about touching their own eyes.

We'd love to hear from you! If you have a comment about this article or if you have a tip for a future Freethink story, please email us at [email protected].

Up Next

Future of Medicine
Researchers Discover How to Improve Eyesight Naturally
how to improve eyesight
Future of Medicine
Researchers Discover How to Improve Eyesight Naturally
The world is aging, and with age comes vision decline. New research may have found how to improve eyesight in an accessible way.

The world is aging, and with age comes vision decline. New research may have found how to improve eyesight in an accessible way.

The Future Explored
Mojo Vision Wants to Give Our Eyes Superpowers
augmented reality contact lenses
The Future Explored
Mojo Vision Wants to Give Our Eyes Superpowers
AR contact lenses will project the digital world into our retinas.

AR contact lenses will project the digital world into our retinas.

Dispatches
FDA Approves AI “Doctor” That Can See Disease in Your Eyes
FDA Approves AI “Doctor” That Can See Disease in Your Eyes
Dispatches
FDA Approves AI “Doctor” That Can See Disease in Your Eyes
How will artificial intelligence transform medicine?
Prosthetics
We’re One Step Closer to a Bionic, Prosthetic Eye
prosthetic eye
Prosthetics
We’re One Step Closer to a Bionic, Prosthetic Eye
A prosthetic eye may soon be possible, thanks to new research that demonstrates how to stimulate the brain to “see.”

A prosthetic eye may soon be possible, thanks to new research that demonstrates how to stimulate the brain to “see.”

Superhuman
The Experimental Procedure That Can Reverse Blindness
The Experimental Procedure That Can Reverse Blindness
Superhuman
The Experimental Procedure That Can Reverse Blindness
Doctors told Vanna she was permanently blind. But thanks to an experimental procedure, she can see.
By Mike Riggs

Doctors told Vanna she was permanently blind. But thanks to an experimental procedure, she can see.

Accessibility
eSight Lets the Legally Blind See
eSight Lets the Legally Blind See
Watch Now
Accessibility
eSight Lets the Legally Blind See
This legally blind man is seeing his wedding for the first time. 15 years after he got married.
Watch Now

Some people who are legally blind can still see, but images can be blurry and in low contrast. eSight has created a headset that can give sight to the blind through three technologies. First, an HD camera captures video. Second, a built in computer increases contrast and clarity. Third and finally, the image is projected on displays in real time. 15 years after marrying his wife, eSight helped a legally blind man...

Superhuman
Reversing Blindness
Reversing Blindness
Watch Now
Superhuman
Reversing Blindness
Vanna was legally blind. Now she can see. Hear her inspiring story and meet the amazing doctors who gave her back her sight.
Watch Now

Vanna started to notice a change in her vision. Six months later, she was legally blind. But Vanna never lost hope, and enrolled in an experimental clinical trial. Her doctors injected stem cells from her hip into her optic nerve. Afterwards, she started to regain her vision. Amazingly, Vanna can now see. This is the story of reversing blindness.

Accessibility
Blind YouTuber Shows Tech Industry How to Be More Inclusive
assistive technology
Accessibility
Blind YouTuber Shows Tech Industry How to Be More Inclusive
Visually impaired YouTuber Kristy Viers has created a channel where she demonstrates the assistive technology features on her devices.

Visually impaired YouTuber Kristy Viers has created a channel where she demonstrates the assistive technology features on her devices.