New focus on eye glasses

Optical scientists at the University of Arizona are developing a proprietary technology that could provide glasses with lenses that focus automatically.

Optical scientists at the University of Arizona are working with The Egg Factory, LLC, and its subsidiary company, eVision, to develop a proprietary technology that could provide glasses with lenses that actively focus by themselves.

Nasser Peyghambarian, Bernard Kippelen and David Mathine of the UA Optical Sciences Centre are working to develop the electroactive materials and microcomputer programmable, adaptive lenses that would use minuscule battery-supplied voltages to instantly change refractive power at many tiny points, or pixels, across the lens.

The team hope that the new glasses could alleviate conditions such as presbyopia which causes a loss in the flexibility of the lens inside the eye resulting in near point blur and affects 93 percent of the world’s population over age 45.

Today, this condition is corrected with multi-focal lenses. However, bifocal or trifocal eyeglass wearers must tip their heads up or down for clear distance or near vision.

Progressive lens glasses wearers must tilt their heads at between 35- and 45-degree angles for clear close-up vision, and their view to either side of the reading zone is distorted.

A traditional eyeglass lens is figured to a certain prescribed thickness to bend light so that it focuses on the eye’s retina.

Variable focus glasses proposed by the UA team would shoot an infrared beam to the object a person was looking at, and a microprocessor would calculate the power needed to bring the object into focus.

The UA team anticipate using electroactive material embedded in the eyeglass lens so voltages can be used to control how light is bent at all points across the lens within milliseconds.

Real time electronics in future smart glasses are said to be something like adaptive optics in telescopes. Astronomers use computer software to change the shape of telescope mirrors to compensate for air turbulence to bring stars into focus.

In next generation eyeglasses, the lens won’t change shape, but computer programmed electroactive materials will bend incoming light to compensate for eye aberrations.

The trickiest problem at this stage is finding the ideal electroactive material for the glasses, Peyghambarian and Kippelen said.

Peyghambarian estimates that the first of the new glasses may be available to consumers in about three to four years.