By Preston Fassel

Seeing is believing. That’s as true today as it was in the ages before the phrase even came into the popular lexicon, and it’s especially true in an industry built around vision. While many patients will trust their opticians when it comes to lenses and buying decisions, more than a few are going to want to be able to see the effects, benefits and features of different lenses or products, the same way they want to see what their Rx is going to look like in a pair of trial frames.

Thankfully, several manufacturers offer demonstration tools to show patients how and why they’ll benefit from a variety of lens treatments, styles and designs. This roundup will look at a variety of those tools and the ways in which they can help you help your patients make informed decisions.

One of the most basic demonstration tools available is also one of the most valuable. Unlike lenses such as bifocals or PALs that will only serve a specific patient demographic, photochromics can be of benefit to everyone from an octogenarian presbyope to a child needing reading glasses for accommodation issues. Unfortunately, many patients today hold a stigma against photochromic lenses for either their own past, negative experiences with earlier generation lenses that got dark or clear too slowly or offered what they felt was inadequate sun protection. With the latest generation of lenses having addressed most—if not all—complaints, UV boxes can be a convenient way to demonstrate those advancements to your patients and help assuage concerns. By shining concentrated UV light on a pair of photochromic lenses, patients can get a demonstration of how they work without having to go outdoors—a particularly helpful demo on a rainy or overcast day when they may not want to get wet, or the lenses may not achieve full activation (and the patient will get to watch them return to clear).

While many photochromic manufacturers offer their own branded boxes, perhaps the most ubiquitous is that offered by Transitions, which works with the simple push of a button. If you want to remain unbiased in branding, you can achieve the same effect with a simple black light setup, which can also open the door to discussing the concept of blue and UV light with your patients. I also personally enjoyed having a pair of frames handy with plano photochromic lenses edged into them to allow patients to personally “test run” the product themselves by stepping outside, which gives photochromic demos a bit more of a personal feel.

Most of your patients aren’t going to be well versed in the science of optics, so attempting to explain the benefits of polarized lenses can be even more difficult than trying to sell them on photochromics. I know—I’ve tried. Thankfully, numerous manufacturers offer demonstration kits that will show your patient—rather than tell—how polarized lenses differ from tints. Demo kits will all feature the same basic setup of displaying a picture to the patient which allows them to see part of an image that becomes completely clear when the patient views it through a polarized lens, simulating the elimination of glare either from the surface of a lake, the ocean from a beachfront, or behind the wheel of a car. Most kits also come with a pair of basic tinted lenses to demonstrate to patients the difference between the lenses; in the rare instances where the kit does not come with sample tinted lenses, I advise having a pair on hand for demonstration purposes. I also recommend those kits which demonstrate the benefits of the lenses behind the wheel of a car, which is where the majority of your patients will be using their sunglasses, although it may not hurt to keep another set depicting a water scene on hand for patients who have identified as sportsmen.

On the more advanced end of the spectrum, the NuPolar LED Glare Demonstrator (1) from Younger Optics uses LED lights as opposed to a simple image to simulate glare on a horizontal surface.

A lorgnette with polarized plano lenses also provides an effective demonstration of the polarization’s glare-blocking abilities. As with photochromic lenses, I’ve also discovered that it helps to have two pairs of frames on hand with plano tinted and polarized lenses for patients to experience the effects themselves by walking outdoors. On rare occasions when I have encountered the patient who ended up liking tinted more, it doesn’t hurt to vet the patient’s preference with a hands-on in-office tryout.

As lenses designed for protection against blue light become a bigger part of the lens market, and “blue light” and “HEV light” have entered the popular lexicon thanks to advertising efforts on the part of big box and chain retailers, opticians should be ready not only to discuss those topics but also be able to demonstrate to patients a lens’ effectiveness in protecting against blue light. Especially for patients with a particular concern about the harmful effects of blue light, the ability to show a patient how well his or her lens is defending against it can be invaluable in either reassuring them that they have adequate lens protection or helping to put them into a lens more suited to their needs.

One way to do this is by using BPI’s UV and Blue Light Analyzer (2) that evaluates lens transmission at 400, 430, 470 and 505 nm. The transmission percentage at each range is displayed along with the Wertheim Protection Factor, a merit-based figure that expresses the blue light blocking capability of the lens. For patients’ own assurance, a “warning light” will activate as a sort of yes/no answer to let them know if their lenses are offering adequate protection. It’s a simple way to either put patients’ minds at ease or open the door to a serious conversation.

Hoya has a spectrometer that attaches to an HVC-enabled tablet. This tool illustrates blue light intensity from light sources and can be fitted with lenses to show how blue light treatments reduce transmission.

While blue light is a more recent concern in the optometric community, UV is one of our longest running concerns—one not always shared by patients.

Using a UV-measuring device is also an effective way to demonstrate the effectiveness—or lack of effectiveness—of any lens. One such device is BPI’s UV Economy Photometer which reads UV light transmission between 350 and 400 nm. It has manual calibration and a digital display showing percentage transmission. Lenses (or lenses in frames) are tested by placing them under the sensor.

OPTISOURCE INTERNATIONAL offers a Multimeter spectrophotometer (3) that measures the UV transmittance of any lens and the light transmittance of colored lenses; the device can also be used to demonstrate photochromic activation.

The Zeiss C-UV400 is a new tool that gives dispensers a novel way to visualize UV radiation. The product of a partnership with Sunscreenr, known for their UV cameras, the C-UV400 is a small, simple-to-use 8-inch tablet that allows a dispenser to show patients whether their glasses are providing UV protection and if so, how much. The C-UV400 will especially be helpful in demonstrating two truths to patients: Clear lenses can, but don’t necessarily, provide UV protection, whereas poorly made tinted lenses may not offer protection either. With poorer quality lenses flooding the market from low-budget retailers, the C-UV400 can open the doors to a frank discussion with your patients about the adequacy of protection their lenses are affording them and the true quality of a quality pair of lenses.

Zeiss also offers a standalone kiosk-style UV lens demonstrator for patients to use themselves. The Zeiss Freestanding Display (4) features iPad-based digital demos of UV-blocking lenses as well as physical demos of AR coatings and sun options. 

For those who continue to use them, a frequent new sight at shopping malls are VR kiosks, where adults and children alike can enjoy interactive adventure simulations through the use of a pair of Oculus Rift-type VR goggles. While VR may not have completely revolutionized entertainment, it’s in the process of revolutionizing opticianry, with numerous companies utilizing virtual reality technology to help dispensers demonstrate things to their patients that were difficult—if not impossible—in prior generations. ABS Smart Mirror’s Smart VR (5) is a unique app designed to be used with either an iPad or ideally, a VR headset, which allows patients to see the world with and without a variety of lens treatments, from AR to polarized versus non-polarized. The Smart VR experience adds elements of drama and fun to lens demonstrations.

Shamir’s Visual Reality App (6) is a video designed to run through a VR headset for use in a practice or by consumers at home. Videos have been developed for Shamir WorkSpace and Attitude III lenses. According to the company, the latter “will take the viewer through a variety of daily outdoor activities highlighting the advantages of the lens.” The app is available through the Google Play and iTunes stores.

CONTENTLINQ (7) offers a tablet-based point-of-sale system designed to engage patients directly while they are shopping for frames. Contentlinq aggregates content from various suppliers, allowing ECPs to select the brands and demos most relevant to their offices.

Hoya Vision Consultant (HVC) (8) is a fully integrated interactive consultation system that enables dispensers to take customers through the process of understanding the different options available to them while matching their lifestyle needs to the optimum lens solutions. It contains a vision library that demonstrates the basics of the anatomy of the eye and vision, and can be used by patients while they are waiting to see the doctor or dispenser. The heart of the system is a sales consultation feature that supports the dispenser as they guide customers through the consultation process, from entering their prescription data to ordering the final product. Clear illustrations and animations as well as intuitive questionnaires help explain the customer’s visual shortcomings, while various comparison possibilities will help them to choose the best design, material and coating.

Shamir’s Augmented Reality app helps users visually experience and understand the different product offerings with various prescription lens solutions. Starting with the newly released Shamir Autograph Intelligence, the application provides a general understanding of different lens solutions for eyecare practitioners and consumers. Shamir offers product information, advice and recommended products.

In the social media realm, TRANSITIONS OPTICAL (9) is launching a Facebook virtual try-on experience that allows users to see themselves in all 13 Transitions lens colors, including Transitions Signature lenses style colors and Transitions XTRActive style mirror lenses.

EnChroma develops lens technologies and high-performance eyewear for color blindness. The company recently released six new lenses specially engineered to address specific types and severities of red-green color blindness in a broad range of lighting conditions. To help ECPs demonstrate the properties of the lenses, ENCHROMA (10) is offering a lens trial kit containing the six different lenses in fit-over frames that allow color blind patients to understand exactly how EnChroma lenses can enhance their color perception. A new and improved online EnChroma Color Vision Screening Test and Lens and Frame Advisor Tool will help eyecare professionals select the ideal lens solution for their color blind patients.

While this is by no means a comprehensive list of every tool available to opticians, it has hopefully sparked more than a few imaginations in terms of becoming more proactive in lens and technology demonstrations during the sales process. Especially with cutting-edge new technology incorporating tablets and VR, today’s opticians have a unique opportunity to show their patients the variety of lens treatments and designs available to them, and how they can directly benefit the patient. ■