PixelOptics, a US-based vision aid manufacturer has nowdeveloped a bifocal lens that is able to change its index of refraction withthe push of button. Welcome to the future.
Their hope is to do away with the days of unattractive andsemi-functional bifocals, which didn’t really focus well using either lens –making far away things less crisp and up-close things sort of blurry.
The traditional form of the bifocal consists of two glasspieces, each with a separate index of refraction. Designed to combat theoften-suffered loss of near focus in people over 40, they have acquired areputation for being not only moderately unattractive, but moderately useless.
Over the last 10 years, PixelOptics has been developing asolution to this middle-aged fashion and function limitation, in the form ofthe emPower! electronic bifocals.
Stylish: but not without science appeal.
Here’s the deal. The top of the glasses still function as atypical far-focusing prescription lens, but the bottom half has anelectro-active liquid crystal in it. When an electrical current is applied, thelens will change its refraction index, allowing near-focus objects to be easilyseen while simultaneously using the awesome properties of science by “freezing”the lens into a particular curve.
The glasses come with three settings – active on, manual on,and manual off, all flipped through easily by the press of a switch located onthe side of the glasses. The manual off setting will leave the bottom layerfree of current, and it will act like a low-power progressive lens which isuseful for activities of daily life that many of us apparently enjoy – walking,soccer playing, wrestling wild tigers – that sort of thing.
The manual on setting sends an electric current through theglasses consistently, effectively “freezing” them in place as a near-focusoptimizer. This is the most true to the “traditional” bifocal concept, mademore suave by the addition of electricity.
Of course, the true proof of concept comes with the activeon mode. When these babies are turned on, an electrical current is supplied tothe business end on an intermittent basis. Using motion-detection sensors muchlike the ones in current-gen smartphones, the glasses will detect whichdirection the person is looking and will adjust the focus of the bottom lensaccordingly.
This means that a prospective wearer could easily read theclassified documents they were holding in their hands, look up at the PrimeMinister of the small country their international and utterly secret spy agencyhad sent them to negotiate with, noting the crystal-clear scars along hisforehead and pockmarks along his left cheek, then glance back at their sheaf ofparchments, the facts and figures springing into sharp relief.
Of course, this could only end with a daring escape.
According to PixelOptics, the glasses will be powered by arechargeable battery that will regain energy when the bifocals are placed in aspecial cradle. This charging process should take two to three hours and thecharge will last for up to five days, should the user be too distracted by the usefulnessof their new purchase to store them properly.
The emPower! is scheduled for a 2010 release in the UnitedStates and 2011 in Europe.
Bifocaling has never seemed so sexy.