The AOA will See You Now: Opternative and The Rise of Online Vision Tests

In this article by Wired Magazine titled “ The Eye Doctor on Your Laptop Will See You Now”, the writer gives us, the audience, a glimpse into an online eye test by Opternative, a new online platform that gives users the opportunity to take free eye exams from the comfort of their homes. To employ Opternative for an eye test, he writes that all you need is “an internet connection, a smartphone a computer, and 25 minutes”. The eye exam is free for subscribers and provides glasses, contacts or both for a nifty price of $40 and $60 respectively.

The presence of Opternative marks a surging climb in online eye tests, and the platform’s 19,000 customer mark is a testimony to it’s success. The writer explains that Opternative’s relatively easy to use platform is one of the hallmarks of its success. Consumers are thrilled by the opportunity to go through a vision test at home, and it’s also free. This is how it works- Opternative texts users a link, and then acts as a coach, mentoring users through the online process. The platform asks users questions like “ which of these lines is sharper, the right one or left one?” This questioning process goes on for 25- 30 minutes, and the user must answer the question to best of their abilities. Once the user is done, the test results are reviewed by a doctor who looks for red flags and then sends a prescription. The user receives a signed copy with all the doctor’s information.  All this sounds relatively easy, and possibly a better option for the consumer, but recent reports from the American Optometric Association might prove otherwise.


According to the AOA, Opternatives claims might be misleading and these claims, which the association describes as ambiguous, “could mislead patients into choosing convenience at the expense of proper eye and vision care.” Dr. Christopher Wolfe, a member of the AOA, and a reviewed a clinical study that Opternative uses to back its claim, comparing its vision test to an in-person refractive exam. The 30-person trial compared patients plano to -4.00 using spherical equivalent data for both exam modalities, determining a correlation. On Wolfe’s end, he discovered various discrepancies in the findings by Opternative, he concluded on the study and the platform noting that, “There are the eye health concerns that are obviously misleading, but the fact that the study they cite is so small and their claims that it points to accuracy and correlation to traditional refraction techniques is misleading at best, since it only accounts for spherical equivalent data.” The AOA will be taking several measures to advocate for the safeguarding of consumers against misleading claims made by various online vision tests. Already the federal government has taken action against one company, Carrot Neurotechnology, who’s online vision test proved to be deceitful towards consumers.

Information for this article is courtesy of Wired Magazine and the American Optometric Association. To follow on this issue, follow the American Optometric Association.


A New Product of Contact Lenses

Ralph Cotran

Contact Lenses

Scientists at Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI) are responsible for the creation of a another kind of contact lens that just recently received approval to be sold to retailers around the United States. On April 23rd, the newly updated lenses with an extended depth of focus (EDOF), were just approved by the Federal Drug Administration and the US Health Control. The product is expected to hit the US market very soon. 

Brien Holden, professor and CEO of BHVI, believes that “this is an imperative venture forward in quality vision for presbyopes.” The contact lenses were designed by BHVI analyst, Dr Ravi Bakaraju, and are expected to help people who wear contact lenses to see better and much more clearly closeup and faraway, while diminishing the normal visuals of ghosting and haloes. 

Dr Bakaraju was quoted that “many claims are made that multifocal lenses provide simultaneous vision at various visual distances but often this comes at the cost of reduced contrast, increased ghosting and compromised overall vision satisfaction.” A complete database also shows that our contact lenses will give an extraordinarily advantage the US advertise, and others. The contact lenses are derived from another product put forth by BHVI, Brien Holden Vision Pty Ltd, which will also be accessible toward the end of this year.

Holden explains that contact lenses represents a huge development towards the improvement of science, innovation and innovative work. Brien Holden Vision Institute will give a generous part of its benefits to store our work during a time when improvements in science need as much help as possible. BHVI is dedicated to correcting the disabilities of people who suffer with eye sight, and with more than 625 million people who are vision impaired this need becomes even more of a priority. Many of these patient do not have access to healthcare, nor do they have the resources to pay for tests and glasses, which is why these efforts are impertinent. 

Keeping Up With Eyewear Trends

Ralph CotranThe past few decades eye wear has become a must have accessory, for both men and women, which is why its so important for Optical Services to keep up with the latest trends. Wearing sunglasses and even prescription glasses can give people the opportunity to look more sophisticated, professional and improve their overall day to day look. And just like clothing companies, eyewear stores also need to keep up with these trends in order to deliver the latest styles to they customers. 

By continuously updating your inventory, retailers will be in a good position to always attract customers from all ages and backgrounds. Joy Gibb, president of Eyes of Joy Mobile Optical Service, indicates that consumers are always looking to change up their style, and turn to strops that always offer products that are contemporary. Frames, colors and styles need to be different from last season, otherwise buyers will move to the next place that offers more variety. 

Luckily, there are numerous ways for eye-care experts (ECPs) to keep their inventory up to date with the newest trends. Some of these resources include the Vision Council, with continuous updates in this field through their websites: and These blogs are meant to raise awareness among eyewear designers and give the latest updates. 

Fashion shows, like the annual Vision Expo meeting, also open doors for eye-care designers to discover upcoming trends, materials, shapes, and styles. Celebrities and other public icons are great resources in understanding future fashion trends, especially since the younger generations look up to these people.

Gibb also explains that frame representatives can also help the optics industry.  “They will see color palettes and designs that will start to trend.” Efficient representatives should always keep the company’s financial well-being in mind and have the market information readily available as soon as possible.

Healthy Eating for Your Eye Sight

Ralph CotranEveryone has been told at some point in their lives to eat carrots in order to improve their vision, and according to Cynthia Cupal. O.D., F.A.A.O., of the Fenton Vision Center, nutrition is a very important step in maintaining a healthy vision. Cupal believes that healthy eating habits are extremely important, especially for people who have a past of being treated for multiple diseases. In order to practice what she preaches, Cynthia herself leads a healthy life style. She is a certified raw food nutritionist, as well as a member of the Ocular Nutrition Society. The ONS is a nation wide group  of optometrists that are dedicated to the prevention of ocular and systemic disease, and patient eye care. 

Below is a list of foods that could potentially help improve your vision once introduced to a healthy and balanced meal plan. 

  • Once consumed, foods that contain beta-carotene are easily turned into Vitamin A, which is an excellent resource for promoting healthy eyesight, a strong immune system and youthful skin. Beta- carotene can be found in daily foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and pumpkins.
  • Vitamin C is also an excellent contributor when you are looking to improve your healthy living lifestyle. Childhood favorites like broccoli and brussels sprouts and bell peppers contain antioxidants that are able to shield your eyes from outside danger and give it fast healing properties. Vitamin C can also decelerate age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Dry eyes is an ongoing problem for many people who wear contacts regularly. One way to mend this issue is by eating foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in fish and nuts. Chia and hemps seeds are also great amino acids that can restore the production of the master antioxidant and glutathione.

While consuming the foods mentioned above can be a great way to improve your eyesight, these healthy eating habits are also great for your general immune system. Despite your age, you should visit your eye doctor at least twice a year and keep up with the changes in your frames. 

Tour of US Optical

Check out youtube tour of our Syracuse, NY facilities.

US Optical Interview with Eye Care Professional

US Optical
Providing First Class Lab Service – All Within 24 Hours

EyeCare Professional’s Paul DiGiovanni, LDO, speaking with Ralph CotranCo-Owner, US Optical.

Ralph Cotran

Robert Cotran

Ronald Cotran

Please provide a brief history of US Optical.
US Optical was created on March 1, 2008 by myself and my two brothers Ron and Robert. Previously we owned another lab, Optogenics, which we sold to Essilor of America in 1999. We decided to come back into the Independent lab business as we were very excited about Free form, new lens technologies, new AR coatings, digital equipment and the rapid innovation in the optical industry.

We are entrepreneurs and wanted to create another viable Independent lab to help consumers see better – much better – and this time digitally better.

This focus, coupled with our unique 24HR turnaround on uncut lenses, and very fast service on complete and edged jobs, has catapulted US Optical to the fourth largest Independent lab in the US. We are humbled by the support the independent eye care professionals have given us.

US Optical is the largest supermarket of Free form lenses, giving ECPs endless choices. We have also invested in automation with 3 Free form generators and 6 digital polishers, four Zeiss AR machines and two MEI edgers – the fastest edger in the world that specializes in wrap technology and drill mounts as well as conventional jobs.

US Optical is positioned to continue to lead the Independent wholesale lab industry in the areas of new technologies, Free form, turnaround time and superior finishing jobs.

What brands of lenses are available to your customers?
We provide the following lens brands: Zeiss, Shamir, Seiko, Younger, Hoya, Sola, Vision-Ease, Essilor, Signet, Carrera Xcede, Kbco, Pixel & US Optical Freeform. It is our goal to give customers choices and we do this by increasing lens selections and AR coatings. Our two newest products are Hoya Free-Form and Zeiss Individual II Wrap Free Form technology. We also have a large number of Zeiss AR coatings available.

In your opinion, what differentiates US Optical from its competitors?
What differentiates US Optical is our USP! (Unique Selling Proposition) We provide our customers with 7 incredible reasons to use US Optical and these are accompanied by 7 benefits that add thousands of dollars to the eye care professional’s bottom line!


  1. FASTEST LAB IN AMERICA!™ ECP’s will receive 24 hour turnaround on uncut lenses (with or without Zeiss AR coatings), and 3-5 working days turnaround on edged or complete jobs. This service will WOW your customers and is worth tens of thousands of dollars to your practice. It will differentiate you from the pack. NO OTHER LAB CAN DO THIS! Our turnaround time will give you a distinctive competitive advantage. You will blow your competition away.

  2. Family owned, independent just like our customers. Our goal is to help you serve your customers, grow your business profitably and make you happy. We understand your needs as an Independent Professional.

  3. Largest supermarket of brand Free form High Definition lenses. You will be able to offer your customers endless lens choices such as the Zeiss Individual II, Shamir Autograph II, Seiko Surmount, Hoya ID and Essilor Definity. We have recently launched our value line of US Optical proprietary Free form HD lenses, such as the Ultimate HD™ and the Wrap HD™.

  4. We are easy to work with. Our customer service is extremely knowledgeable and will be helpful to your practice. We answer all your questions promptly.

  5. Our prices are Net, Competitive and Fair. All these benefits, including our 24Hour service are equivalent to a 50% price value discount over any other lab! We do not inflate our price pages!

  6. We use the most advanced MEI edger in the world for Wraps and Sunglass frames. (6 & 8 bases) Our proprietary SUN RX Lens HD technology produces distortion free & cosmetically beautiful sunglasses making your customers very happy and your practice known as Sunglass RX experts!

  7. We pioneer and specialize in new technologies such as Free form lenses, PhotoFusion® by Zeiss, Transitions New Vantage® polarized lenses, Carrera’s Xcede Sun RX, and Pixel’s emPower!™ Electronic Eyeglasses. As our customer, you will always know and have access to the finest and latest optical technologies giving you an edge over the competition.

What is the turn-around time for a standard job to be completed and returned to the customer?
Finished jobs take between 3 to 5 working days from when we receive the customer’s frame (3 without AR and 5 with AR). Add a day or two for drill mounts. Edged only jobs can be produced in 3 days even with Zeiss AR coatings! (It pays for an ECP to have a tracer as well.) Completed jobs are shipped by either FedEx or UPS overnight.

What factors should ECPs consider when determining which lab to use?
ECPs should look at VALUE. Does the lab they work with help them make money.

You make money when your lab consistently executes with delivery and quality and is willing to become a partner, helping you with your challenges. Is customer service friendly and proactive, are they knowledgeable? Does the lab have reasonable pricing, fair policies and excellent consistent turnaround time? If a problem or challenge occurs will the lab take responsibility and fix the problem, expedite a job or redo the job correctly? Do they have most of the products that you need? Do they give you choices? Can they handle your sunglasses? Will the managers pick up the phone and talk to you when you need a special lens or have a complex question? Are they EASY to work with? If you find that most of the time the answer is YES, then you found the lab that brings you VALUE.

We at US OPTICAL believe we are the best VALUE play in America – besides being the FASTEST LAB IN AMERICA™. Value is also all about profitability and ease of relationship for the ECP. A win-win situation for the ECP and the Lab creates Value and is a great result for the American consumer!

What’s new at US Optical?
US Optical is adding approximately 7,500 to 8,000 square feet to its facility. We need extra room to keep up with our fast turnaround, growth, personnel and service.

In addition we bought our second BISPHERA MEI edger which will cut and edge 45 pairs of eyeglass lenses per hour and will house this new edger and peripherals in this new addition. Also another digital surfacing line with two digital polishers will be purchased which will sit next to the MEI edger. Because we are growing quite fast we will need the expansion to increase our lens inventory and additional space for our current employees as well as future ones. We anticipate an additional 15 employees in the next two to three years.

We will also be building another employee cafeteria in the new space and moving some equipment from our current space into the new space. This will allow us to increase our customer service area which is very crowded currently. The expansion is needed for further growth, new digital equipment, and a new coating center, in line with our desire to stay at the cutting edge of new technologies and continue to be one of the leaders in lens digital manufacturing in the USA.

We also need to maintain our ability to turnaround jobs in twenty four hours as we continue to grow in order to maintain our service standard and business model which we believe differentiates us from thousands of competitors.

Please explain the MEI edger used for wrap around sunglasses and the technology behind it?
The MEI edger is a breakthrough in technology. These edgers can produce about 45 pairs of glasses an hour of any type, zyl or metal, rimless or drilled. It can also produce all the specialty wrap frames such as Rudy Project, Oakley Jacket and Flak Jacket, Liberty Sport, Nike Show and Skyline, Carrera Xcede and all of the Wiley X frames. It can do this because every edger has 12 different tools that it uses to edge the lenses. These tools are controlled by proprietary Cad Software that cuts the lenses in sequence to achieve the complex shapes of these lenses.


US Optical Launches New Technologies and Products

From the July Issue of Vision Monday Magazine

SYRACUSE, N.Y.- US Optical recently installed a 1200-DLX AR coater and a VFT-Orbit lens generator, both manufactured by Satisloh. The ne AR coater will add an additional 750 Crizal AR and digital AR jobs capacity per day, while the VFT-Orbit lens generator will produce an additional 350 Digital surfaced jobs per day, according to US Optical.

“To maintain our dominant position as the ‘Fastest Lab in America’ with our 24- to 48-hour turnaround on uncut lenses, this expansion in machinery, coatings and lens designs is necessary,” said Ralph Cotran, vice president and co-owner of US Optical, which Vision Monday ranked as the third largest independent U.S. wholesale lab in its 2013 Top Labs Report.

The Syracuse, N.Y.-based lab has also launched several new lens products including:

  • The US Optical Personal Computer-HD (PC-HD), a new personal computer lens designed for patients requiring extra vision while working at a desk or computer. The lens comes in three modes: more reading, more desk work, or more computer work.
  • The US Optical Blu Tech lens series: A new, impact-resistant lens from Eye Solution Technology that protects against damage from UV radiation and high energy blue light emitted by computers, digital devices, iPhones and iPads. It is now available in US Optical’s branded products: The Single Vision HD, the Ultimate HD, the Wrap HD, The Advanced HD and the PC-HD.
  • Shamir Duo, a Freeform bifocal the eliminates the segment line and is available from US Optical in 24 hours.
  • Two new anti-reflective coatings from Essilor Lens of America: Crizal Optifog for fog-free vision and Crizal Prevencia, an AR coating that protects against harmful blue light and UV.
  • Carl Zeiss’ new anti-reflective coatings Allure Plus and Purecoat PLUS which have an ultra extra tough hard coat that offers 50 percent more scratch resistance while delivering crisper vision.

“We will continue to invest into new machinery, new technology and new lens designs for branded products from both the large manufacturers and our own US Optical established brand,” said Ronald Cotran, vice president and co-owner of US Optical. “As an independent lab, we can bring countless choices, along with extremely fast service to eyecare professional nationally, We will continuously invest in America, not overseas.”

Ralph Cotran’s Blog

Ralph Cotran's Blog Introduction

This is the blog page for Ralph Cotran on Ralph Cotran’s “Seven Reasons” Website. Stay posted for additional content in the coming months.