Reading our blog posts, you can learn a lot about our eyes and especially about lazy eye – why it appears and how we tackle it and improve visual functions with vision therapy. But until now we haven’t talked a lot about AmblyoPlay from a development perspective. Of course, AmblyoPlay didn’t just appear out of nowhere and became available for all computers and tablets out there – it took us more than a year and a half of development for the release of version 1.0.
As any other product the first few versions of AmblyoPlay were not worked smoothly and without problems. We were receiving some positive feedback and comments, but there were many who were more on the harsh side. We struggled but through the struggle we also learned a lot (and we keep on learning!) in recent years and we are really happy that we found ourselves in this interesting field that has so much room for improvements! In Development Story blog series we want to present you how everything started and tell you more about how AmblyoPlay works and what were some of the key challenges that we were facing through development process. Follow us if you wish to find out more. I promise you that our story is interesting!
Our first product – Smart Optometry application for eye doctors
Some of you know but some don’t – Smart Optometry is the name of the company behind AmblyoPlay. It was established back in 2015 by 3 young professionals from different fields (development, business and eye care) with strong entrepreneurial spirit and vision to »Smart Up Your Vision«. Ermm, that was actually just our slogan, but we positioned our startup as an eye care software development company.
Already from the beginning we knew that eye doctors and optometrists are essential for patients to help them with vision related problems. This is why our intent was not to build an app for general public to test their vision on the smartphones or tablets at home, but rather something that would help specialists in their practice do the eye examination faster, more precise and maybe even in a funnier way! This in a nutshell is what was the idea behind our first product – Smart Optometry app.
We developed Smart Optometry – an application for eye care specialists that includes 15 different tests to test patients’ vision in their everyday practice. Today Smart Optometry application has more than 100,000 registered users and is one of the best rated eye care apps on both Google Play and App Store.
While this sounds like a great result, the way to get here was long and full of wrong business decisions, countless changes of both the product and the business model and a lot of stress.But in the end, it was a really good project to learn and to make mistakes that we were adamant won’t happen again in the future.
Cross platform or Native application
Smart Optometry is a native application developed for each system (iOS and Android) separately. At the beginning our reasoning behind our business model was »We will build iOS only application, because just doctors will use it and they all owe an iPad right? «. Well it was not because of that, but I was the only programmer in the team and I just knew how to build iOS apps and this was the fastest way to start selling our product. Soon we realized we were wrong. We were adding features, decreasing price and in the end, we also found new team member Blaž who developed Smart Optometry in Android studio for Android devices.
Blaž joining our team was a turning point for us all. Not right away but slowly we started turning things into the right direction. At the beginning we were thinking to re-develop Smart Optometry into a cross platform app. There were already a lot of frameworks out there offering this option but, in the end, we decided that it will be faster (and startups don’t have a lot of time to waste), if he just wrote Android app in native environment.
We both learned a lot and developing apps in native frameworks was a really useful experience, even if we had to write code two times and in different programming languages – Blaž was developing in Java and Kotlin and me back there still in Objective C and later in Swift. We learned all about how to build an app and how to push each app to App Store and Google Play. We had some programming skills before but this Apps thing was all new for us.
So shortly – Smart Optometry was a great learning project for us if we look from development or business side and it turned out to be a great product that is used all over the world and its now freely available for everyone to download and use it.
From the beginning we knew Smart Optometry won’t be our only product. Well if I tell you the truth – we thought we will start generating more revenue from Smart Optometry and we will be able to invest our money in future project but it wasn’t working for us really as intended. But as every other start up, we had investors and we had some funds to invest in a new product.
We were thinking a lot and we had a lot of different interesting ideas but one was special. It was not something we thought it would be cool to have but it was something that doctors from University Eye Clinic in Ljubljana, Slovenia were encouraging us to do. Yes, it was the problem with children who suffer from lazy eye and refuse to do their vision therapy »homework« exercises after visiting the clinic and performing exercises there. Even though old fashioned method work really well the problem is that children easily get bored during the process and many times refuse to do it. They didn’t have anything interesting to offer them so it was a perfect fit for both sides: they knew the field and we had experiences with eye care software development products, so why not do something together?
We started brainstorming and putting together our ideas. Soon there was a basic plan made on how to build AmblyoPlay so that it will provide what both parents, kids and doctors alike need to achieve better results faster. And this is where the story about AmblyoPlay starts. We didn’t really know how to do it and if we will be able to do it so the challenges started! We’ll delve more in-depth into how the process started in our next installment!
Matic Ozebek is COO and lead front-end & UX specialist in Smart Optometry, the company behind AmblyoPlay vision therapy.