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Virtual Refractor is a Course

Virtual Refractor



Full course description


Virtual Refractor simulates a distance and near subjective optometric refraction, using a refractor head on virtual patients. There are numerous patients, prescriptions and profiles, and the patients respond to test questions and charts based on user input.

To develop the Virtual Refractor, we have drawn on our experience in teaching refraction all over the world to understand the training needs of optometrists and educators, and have collaborated with leading 3D educational gaming experts to design the tool.

Virtual Refractor is an outstanding introduction to refraction for the new student, and also provides a useful refraction refresher for more experienced clinicians.

The language in Virtual Refractor can now be changed to French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Russian.

The Virtual Refractor is designed for use on PCs rather than phones or tablets. This version is compatible with all major desktop browsers including those shown below.

Compatible with the following browsers



Brien Holden Vision Institute

Brien Holden Vision Institute is a non-profit global scientific, research, innovation, education, licensing and public health organisation. 

The Institute’s mission includes developing new solutions for vision care, especially refractive error and early disease detection, and to eliminate vision impairment and avoidable blindness, thereby reducing disability and poverty. Brien Holden Vision Institute is a social enterprise, investing the revenues from its work into creating scientific solutions and developing and delivering eye care and education programs. 

The Virtual Refractor was originally created for the Institute in 1998 by Dr Jack Alexander from the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW. 


Bondi Labs

Bondi Labs is a startup developer of both proprietary and third party 3D virtual simulation training and assessment software, which addresses specific challenges facing governments, industries, non-profits, and the education sector. Bondi Labs has strategic R&D partnerships with the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC), with software development labs at both.

To date, the primary focus of their proprietary software development has been in the Environmental Science sector – specifically targeting plant bio-security risk management, working with the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and industry. Third party product development has ranged from creating data visualisation software for smart buildings to a medical equipment simulator for the vision health sector.



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Why have we developed Virtual Refractor?

At the Institute we believe:

  • Training and innovation is key to improving eye care to everyone...everywhere
  • Students and educators across the world should have access to the latest technology for engagement, self-directed learning and assessment
  • To increase access, the Virtual Refractor is now available at no charge

How has Virtual Refractor been developed?

  • We have drawn on our experience in teaching refraction all over the world to understand the training needs of optometrists and educators.
  • We have in-house expertise to develop complex algorithms as well as clinicians to develop and test the software
  • We have collaborated with leading serious 3D educational gaming experts to design the tool
The Virtual Refractor was developed in 1998 by Dr Jack Alexander from the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW. Updated by Butterfly, it was recognised at the Sydney Design Awards in November 2013 as best Digital Experience Website. Today, the Virtual Refractor has been further developed by the Brien Holden Vision Institute and Bondi Labs and is available online to educators and students worldwide. 

What are the features and benefits?

Virtual Refractor provides a realistic experience that allows you to learn refraction faster, and in your own time.

You can use Virtual Refractor anytime, anywhere with an internet connection. Users receive immediate feedback on their performance which can lead to increased accuracy, comfort and speed in the refraction process.

The current version of Virtual Refractor has received positive feedback from Academics worldwide. Associate Professor Barbara Junghans, School of Optometry and Vision Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, said, “We have reduced a significant number of hours out of our practical hands-on sessions where we teach the process of refraction by setting at home Virtual Refractor assignments.”

Can institutions use the Virtual Refractor?

The institution version of the software includes the ability for teachers to set assessment and practice tasks for their students, and monitor their performance on these tasks in detail, either remotely or in-person.

If you are an institution and would like to access a trial please contact the Academy  

How do I access Virtual Refractor?

A free Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy account is required to access the full version of the Virtual Refractor.
The account also provides access to other free optometric educational materials, most at no charge.

The full version of the Virtual Refractor includes ongoing access to:
  • Assessment mode, for an immediate mark out of 100 for each refraction
  • All patient types
  • Administrative console with logs of each refraction completed
  • Multi-language capability (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian)
  • User guide
It can be accessed here, through the Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy.

If you are an institution and would like to access a trial which includes the advanced classroom features listed above, please contact the Academy.

Does Virtual Refractor work in all web browsers?

Virtual Refractor can be used on Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari and Opera.

Does it work with Mac?

Yes, Virtual Refractor is fully functional on the Safari browser.

Is a tablet version available?

The buttons and functions of Virtual Refractor are not currently optimised for operation on a tablet.

What future functionality will Virtual Refractor have?

Development for Virtual Refractor is ongoing. In 2016, we introduced multi-language capability (giving access in (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Russian), and a timeline of steps completed by the student for each refraction.

In the future, we are looking to implement “key milestone” functionality. This means the student and teacher will receive feedback on whether the “milestones” below are completed during a refraction.

This way both teachers and student will know not just if their result is correct, but if they are using best practices to arrive at their results. Teachers can look at class trends per student or milestone and take appropriate corrective action if there are particular problematic points. These milestones will also be included in the assessment system.

The long term view is to add more clinical functionality to the software, including more binocular vision tests, ocular health tests, and contact lenses and dispensing. The Institute welcomes feedback and suggestions for future functionality of the software.

Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy

The Brien Holden Vision Institute Academy is a center of excellence for global eye health and vision care education.

With a commitment to human resource development and quality life‐long learning, the Academy promotes the implementation of sustainable programs by creating and providing the educational support (courses, resources and advice) essential to human resource capacity building, especially in the developing context.

Underpinning the Academy is the belief that education is the most effective way to build the capacity necessary to influence the change essential for reducing the social and economic effect of avoidable vision impairment.

Sign up for this course today!