Technology and Innovation In Eye Care

With global blindness set to reach 60 million by 2050, we need to reverse the trend before it’s too late. The old way simply isn’t working. We need to keep pushing boundaries and lead from the front of eye health innovation now, if we’re going to help ensure a brighter tomorrow.

Data shows the number of people living with blindness is set to reach 60 million by 2050. Even though efforts from across the eye health sector have led to a decrease in the prevalence of blindness; global trends such as an ageing population, population growth, the COVID pandemic, and the rise of diseases such as diabetes means we are facing a new blindness crisis.

At Orbis we know the only way to counter this new threat is to collaborate with partners to pioneer the latest in cutting-edge technology. We believe this is the best way to enable us to share critical skills and knowledge with more eye teams around the world, and ultimately, help us reach more people who are needlessly blind - more efficiently - than ever before.

A Cybersight live video consultation

Dr. Dan Neely discusses a case with Dr. Wael Hamoudeh in Syria

Our innovative approach is proven to be effective. By strengthening local healthcare systems and supporting the next generation of eye heroes to build their skills and knowledge, we can prevent more people from going needlessly blind.

As Dr. Dan Neely, professor of Ophthalmology University of Indiana, and medical advisor for Orbis puts it "You can only send people and equipment to so many places, but you can go everywhere, an unlimited number of times, with technology. That is the power and force-multiplier that technology provides us.

The global eye health community – including Orbis and our incredible network of volunteers and partners – has been making great progress in the fight against avoidable blindness. But with experts predicting global blindness will reach 60 million by 2050, the latest technology and innovation is a crucial sight-saving tool.

Innovating to Fight Blindness

For more than 40 years the cornerstone of our work has been to train eye teams in order to improve the quality of care available around the world. Our incredible volunteer network of world-leading medical experts are the best in the business - and by harnessing the latest internet and mobile technologies we can maximize their impact.

Here are a few of the ways we're using technology to fight the global blindness crisis.


Through our award-winning telemedicine platform, Cybersight, we can make an impact in places where a physical presence simply isn't possible due to cost, logistics or security.

With advanced online training tools and access to international experts and trainers, Cybersight helps eye health professionals – regardless of where they are located – to improve skills, collaborate on diagnosis and treatment of patients, and connect with a truly global community of practice that includes technicians, nurses, optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Cybersight is our award winning telemedicine platform

Today, Cybersight has more than 85,000 registered users hailing from nearly every country and region in the world. It has delivered more than 30,000 patient consultations, helping diagnose and treat patients from all corners of the world, even reaching conflict-affected areas like Ukraine and Syria.

Since January 2020, Cybersight has seen a 340% growth in users – from 19,000 to 85,000. In Cybersight's lifetime, there have been more than 119,000 webinar attendances, over 246,000 course enrollments, and Cybersight videos have been viewed more than 11 million times. Using Cybersight, we also seamlessly transitioned our in-person Flying Eye Hospital projects to virtual ones throughout 2020, 2021, and 2022.

In 2023, 20 years after the ophthalmic e-learning platform was first officially launched, we announced the launch of the Cybersight mobile app which will continue to improve the quality of eye care available in hard-to-reach places.

Flying Eye Hospital

Our Flying Eye Hospital is not only packed with the latest medical equipment, it has some of the very latest training facilities too. The entire plane is linked up through an advanced audio visual system, meaning those in the classroom can watch surgeries happening in the operating theater live in 3D – making it as close to the real thing as looking down the microscope yourself.

CNBC visit the Flying Eye Hospital in 2017

Simulation Center

Just as pilots learn to fly planes through simulation training, our simulation training program uses virtual reality, cutting-edge prosthetics, and highly sophisticated, life-like manikins so that eye care teams can build their skills and confidence safely before progressing to real-life surgeries.

Simulation training is proven to effectively decrease complication rates, reduce surgical time and improve outcomes among a surgeon’s early surgical cases. This results in a better patient experience, cost savings and improved standards of care.

Our simulation training is another example of how we're using technology to train more eye health professionals to end avoidable blindness.

We first introduced simulation training onboard the Flying Eye Hospital in 2018 with funding from Collins Aerospace. Since then, we have rolled out the technology in two teaching institutions in South America, where trainees can use audiovisual equipment connected to microscopes to record their simulated surgical assignments, then submit them to board-certified specialists for assessment based on international standards.

Artificial Intelligence

A new artificial intelligence tool on our Cybersight platform can detect common eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, in seconds by examining digital photographs of the back of the eye. This is game-changing for increasing access to early detection, which is critical to prevent treatable eye conditions from leading to vision loss. Further refinements will be made to increase the accuracy of the technology and the number of conditions this incredible tool can detect.

The price point of cutting-edge technologies such as AI has too often kept them out of reach for the eye care professionals who need them most. Many experts consider AI to be the next big thing in ophthalmology and has the potential to revolutionize access to adequate eye screenings, diagnostics and treatment. Cybersight AI ensures that eye care professionals in low- and middle-income countries
can access these tools for free.

Boost App

BOOST (Better Operative Outcomes Software Tool) is a simple, free and user-friendly app designed to help monitor and improve cataract surgical outcomes. Developed in partnership with leading players in the eye care sector, the app takes eye care professionals through a step-by-step process to measure and analyze results by providing access to data in similar cases and making suggestions to correct issues and identify risks.

The app followed a discovery which showed that testing vision immediately after an operation is a good way of measuring the quality of the surgery.

Dr. Dan Neely

Professor of Ophthalmology University of Indiana, and Orbis Volunteer Faculty

You can only send peo­ple and equip­ment to so many places, but you can go every­where, an unlim­it­ed num­ber of times, with tech­nol­o­gy. That is the pow­er and force mul­ti­pli­er that tech­nol­o­gy pro­vides us.”

Virtual Reality

Getting to grips with the Orbis FVR Simulator.

We’ve collaborated with FundamentalVR to develop the Orbis FVR Simulator—the world’s first-ever simulation training platform for ophthalmologists that uses virtual reality (VR), haptic feedback, cloud assessment data, and low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware.

Since the technology is easily portable and mimics the sense of touch, ophthalmology students will be able to practice procedures on their own, without a professor present, on what feels like actual human tissue. Plus, those training with the tool will receive immediate, standardized feedback on their performance.

The training tool offers the potential for accessibility and scalability to countries that bear the greatest burden of avoidable vision loss and will be available at a fraction of the cost of the larger, less portable existing surgical simulators.

We currently have 17 simulators, in beta version, deployed in select residency training programs and prospective digital training hubs around the world – in several low- and middle-income countries, as well as in the United States.

One of the procedures available via the platform is manual small-incision cataract surgery, a surgical technique that is most commonly used in developing countries for treating cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness.

Most existing simulators focus on phacoemulsification which is most commonly used in high-income countries so the training technology is better geared towards training eye care professionals in underserved communities on the procedure they are most likely to use.

Existing cataract training VR simulators were expensive, not transportable, not easily sourced, and trained doctors on a surgical method usually only practiced in high-resource areas, so we saw a real need that we could meet together,” explains Dr. Hunter Cherwek, Orbis’s Vice President of Clinical Services and Technologies.

The simulator has been in the works since 2017, and was developed with funding from the Silicon Valley Orbis Innovation Fund established by John A. and Susan Sobrato, from Dr. David F. and Victoria A. Chang, the ASCRS Foundation, and Connie and Bob Lurie.

You can read more about this exciting technology in this Ophthalmology Times article.

We’d like to say a big thank you to our supporters, donors, and partners – thanks to your commitment to our vision we can continue to innovate and find new ways to use technology to fight blindness in communities around the world.



42 Bugbee Orbis Ethiopia 57301




Dr. Daniel Neely using VR goggles for eye health training


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