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Warby Parker’s new iPhone eye test is its next step into telehealth

Got $15 and 10 minutes? You can renew your prescription on your smartphone.

Warby Parker’s new iPhone eye test is its next step into telehealth
[Photo: Courtesy Warby Parker]
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Warby Parker is updating its vision-testing iPhone app in a big way. It can now perform an eye test requiring only 10 feet of space, 10 minutes, and good lighting. It’s also only $15 and is available in 29 states.

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The app, which is changing its name from Prescription Check to Virtual Vision Test, renews prescriptions for anyone 18 to 65 years old with a single-vision distance prescription and no eye health concerns. Users fill out a quick, five-minute questionnaire, then prop up the iPhone and stand 10 feet away with their current prescription glasses or contact lenses on. As the phone shows a series of letters, the user reads them out and the phone app will record the responses. Within two days, a doctor reviews the results and either approves or asks the person to get an in-person exam. Users will be charged for the test only if they are able to renew their prescription. Sadly, it’s still not available for Android users.

Warby Parker is known for its tech savvy. The company, which got its start in e-commerce, has long offered the ability to try on glasses “virtually.” Cofounder and co-CEO Dave Gilboa says the pandemic helped push the company to update its previous vision test. “The fact that we had to close all of our stores for a couple of months last year and we were restricting traffic in the number of patients in our eye-exam rooms and other eye doctors’ offices were closed around the country—that was more impetus to offer these types of products,” he says. 

[Photo: Courtesy Warby Parker]
Warby Parker launched its Prescription Check app in 2017. Originally, it was a 20-minute test that required 20 feet of distance, an iPhone, and a laptop. It also cost $40. To create its new, improved vision test, a team of engineers at Warby Parker developed an algorithm that estimates distance, using Apple’s Vision framework, so that the app knows when a person is standing far enough away. It will also now be able to update prescriptions for contact lenses as well as glasses. (Since introducing its first eye-check app, the company has expanded into contacts with its Scout brand.)

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The new app not only cuts down on the time it takes to get a renewed prescription but also offers a more seamless experience. However, it is still not a comprehensive vision test. If Warby Parker’s eye doctors think your prescription may need to change, they will suggest you see your regular eye doctor for a full exam, something that the company itself offers at 91 locations.

Eventually, with improvements in camera technology and artificial intelligence, the company would like to expand the kinds of telehealth exams it can offer. “Over time there may be additional digital diagnostic capabilities that can be done from home using devices that are standard in people’s pockets or home,” Gilboa says. “We want to be on the forefront of that.”

About the author

Ruth Reader is a writer for Fast Company. She covers the intersection of health and technology.

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