HONG KONG—Researchers in Hong Kong have developed an easy-to-use, non-invasive wearable device that may prevent development of glaucoma in mild and pre-glaucoma patients. Current therapeutic approaches to preserve failing vision involve reducing intraocular pressure, but are only available for diagnosed patients and may involve invasive surgery or daily doses of eyedrops that may have side effects. This year's Hong Kong national James Dyson Award winners attempted to find a new approach to solving this problem.

Their solution is O_Oley, a non-invasive, physiotherapy device that can stop the development of glaucoma in mild and pre-glaucoma patients, according to its developers, a team of researchers from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). The team, led by Kin Nam Kwok, includes Kwun Chung Chan, Minji Seo and Yuen Yin Leung.
O_Oley users wear a set of comfortable curved-shell goggles for contactless thermal stretching of their eyes. Through customizable adjustments, the device actively stretches the ocular muscles of the eye, enhances tear secretion and improves ocular compliance.
Comprising a corneal tissue compliance improvement (CTCI) system and multiple visible and IR spectrums to increase the temperature of the ocular tissue, the O_Oley boosts blood circulation and induces relaxing thermal stretching of the ocular tissue to strengthen its ability to withstand intra-ocular pressure. This reduces stress in the ocular tissues and decreases the risk of optic nerve damage caused by glaucoma, the researchers said. Unlike other treatments for glaucoma for diagnosed patients, O_Oley is non-invasive and offers a comfortable warming therapeutic experience suitable for home use.
Winning the Hong Kong national leg of the James Dyson Award will inject £5,000 into the O_Oley project, enabling the team to patent their design and kickstart a start-up so they can make O_Oley smaller, lighter and more effective.
The HKUST team hopes their design can help reduce the global prevalence of glaucoma with an easy-to-use device that can be adjusted for different users' needs and is comfortable enough to keep using on a daily basis.
Kin Nam Kwok said, "Our passion and curiosity helped brainstorm and bring ideas together for this device. Inspired by hot yoga, our team decided to explore the same concept for healthy eyes. Further inspired by Dyson's bladeless fan, we implemented contactless inductive stretching, rather than full contact stretching like commercial ocular massagers."
Steve Yeung, Hong Kong judge, commented, "While built-up eye pressure is the major risk factor of glaucoma, I am glad to see O_Oley present a wise approach that utilizes regulated negative pressure and IR irradiation to ease such conditions. Its goggle-format design is commendable because it makes this therapy possible at home and encourages patients to keep performing the treatment without strain. This is a promising solution and good news for all glaucoma patients."
The O_Oley will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award and the O_Oley team aims to commercialize this product. The team wants to get user feedback to improve the interface and functionality and hopes to build personalized exercise protocols on top of the design based on the users' conditions and ocular health. The team also wants to develop a mobile app to make the customization process easier and more enjoyable for the users.
The International shortlist will be announced on October 12, and the International winners on November 16.
The James Dyson Award forms part of a wider commitment by Sir James Dyson, to demonstrate the power of engineers to change the world. The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, the James Dyson Foundation and James Dyson Award encourage aspiring engineers, to apply their knowledge and discover new ways to improve lives through technology.
To date, James Dyson has contributed over £140 million to boundary-breaking concepts in education and other charitable causes. The James Dyson Award has supported over 300 inventions with prize money and is run by the James Dyson Foundation, an engineering-education charity funded by Dyson profits.