Between the natural effects of aging and the added strain of our reliance on screens, it’s unlikely many of us will get through life with completely perfect eyesight. Before you know it your near-sighted vision is fading and you’re finding yourself peering through the bottom of a pair of bifocals to read your morning paper. Multifocal lenses aren’t the easiest to adapt to and often people find the optical distortions from wearing them irritating to the degree that they’d rather juggle several pairs of glasses to suit what they’re doing.
An Israeli company called DeepOpticsthink they might have a solution to this with their new omnifocal glasses which can adjust their optical power in real-time so that the wearer has clear vision no matter where they’re looking. DeepOptics have been working on the glasses for three years because although the technology in itself is not new (it’s been used insmartphone camera lenses) applying it to the larger more optically powerful lenses required for glasses takes a lot of research.
The glasses work using a liquid crystal layer. The liquid can adjust the refractive index of the lens — the way it bends light passing through — when subjected to an electric charge effectively auto-focusing the glasses to offer a clear view of where their wearer is looking no matter the distance of the object.
They’re able to detect where you’re looking by using built-in sensors. When you’re not attempting to focus on anything, the glasses will just act like ordinary glasses. However, when you want to look at an object that’s closer, the sensors will detect changes in the distance between your pupils, send this information to a small processing unit in the glasses which will then use the data to determine the depth of the object that you’re trying to focus on and release the correct electrical current to alter the liquid crystal.
It’s definitely an interesting concept and DeepOptics say that it won’t just be useful for correcting vision; they foresee their technology being used in augmented and virtual reality headsets as a way to focus the eyes more naturally and avoid instances of motion sickness, fatigue, and eye-strain that can arise from trying to focus on objects displayed at a single optical distance, despite having different virtual distances. This is the application I’m most immediately interested in.
Unfortunately, it could be a while before we see omnifocal glasses down at our local opticians. Though there’s a working prototype, DeepOptics have to spend a good deal more time perfecting the accuracy of the sensors, their speed, and their integration into thin frames which could take another two years of development and testing.
Via MIT Technology