At EyeNetra, the startup he cofounded, goofy curiosities like plastic eyeballs line the shelves, and a 3-D printing machine whirs in the background. It’s printing out prototypes of a device that will attach to your smartphone and, in a minute or two, tell you what kind of eyeglasses you need.
The device, called the Netra-G, is based on some clever optics and software Pamplona came up with—a way to measure the refractive error of the eye using a smartphone screen and an inexpensive pair of plastic binoculars. The whole setup might cost a few dollars to make. It does the job of a $5,000 instrument called an autorefractor.
More important, just about anyone could use it. That’s where the disruption comes in—and the trouble. Right now, only doctors or optometrists can prescribe glasses or contact lenses. Pamplona, a brash Brazilian programmer who arrived in the U.S. a few years ago, thinks that won’t always be the case. “We’re changing medicine by providing the user the right to measure themselves,” he says. “We see doctors as more of a coach.”