Bringing back the refractor in award-winning style


The 2013 Sydney Design Awards has recognised the Virtual Refractor, an online innovation that teaches how to correct vision, with the best Digital Experience Website award. Previous recipients of a Sydney Design Award include household brands such as Commonwealth Bank, Foxtel and Transport for NSW. Developed by Brien Holden Vision Institute and Butterfly, a creative, digital agency based in Melbourne, the technology provides comprehensive training on one of the most important instruments in optometric practice and will soon be available for optometry students worldwide.

The Virtual Refractor simulates a complete distance refractive error examination using a refractor head on virtual patients, with numerous demographic profiles, who respond to test charts and questions regarding the effects of lens combinations introduced by the examiner. This refraction procedure enables practitioners to confirm the strength of lenses needed to correct a patient’s particular distance vision impairment and provide effective treatments, typically spectacles or contact lenses. Using this innovative tool, optometry students are able gain a strong working knowledge of how to perform a refraction prior to practical clinical sessions.

The original program which had such great success was called the Refractor Jack, which was developed in the early 1990s. Originally a desktop application developed using C++ programming, the Institute has brought this complex learning aid into the 21st century, taking the technology online.

The Institute and Butterfly worked closely together to scope the project and design a new user-friendly interface to simulate refraction with a patient. The Institute’s Director of Education, Luigi Bilotto commented: “The Virtual Refractor is a highly technical innovation we have made simple to operate. Taking the Virtual Refractor online will mean access to refraction training for students all over the world. They will simply need an internet connection. This is an important development and will assist optometry educators and students in developing countries.”

Bilotto continued: “We are incredibly proud of our Online Team for producing this comprehensive product. The new design has allowed us to bring a human element to the tool. There has been an incredible amount of work that has gone into this, the level of design detail ensures that the Virtual Refractor is realistic, creating a better user experience and improved learning outcomes. This is a great result for the team and this award confirms the value of our product.”


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About Brien Holden Vision Institute

Brien Holden Vision Institute is a unique self-funding global research, education, licensing and public health organisation dedicated to providing affordable, quality vision and eye health solutions for everyone, everywhere We focus on innovation in refractive error correction, the most common eye problem and its seemingly simple solution. With the support of our industry partners, we research and develop breakthrough technologies and products that improve vision. The revenues from this work then allow us to invest in sustainable eye care programs around the world – helping to eliminate vision impairment and avoidable blindness, thereby reducing poverty and suffering.
Through the combination of innovative research with education and service infrastructure, Brien Holden Vision Institute has worked in 54 countries, provided optometric services and glasses to over 2.5 million people at its 429 vision centers and eye care sites, and trained almost 50,000 eye care personnel around the world.