Autofocus Glasses: A new way to see, coming to an optician near you
Back in December was feeling pleased with myself after being advised to get a paid of "computer glasses". Up to then I had been happily using my varifocal glasses for everything. I didn't think anything of it until I realised I was getting neck and back problems while working at the iMac on the office desk. I wasn't having similar problems when typing on the MacBook Air, which is lower.
I mentioned this during a routine eye test at my local optician. She demonstrated that for some time I had been hunting for the best focus by straining my head backwards. I realised that when I looked straight at the screen the text was vaguely, but not disastrously, out of focus.
The answer was a special pair of glasses tuned exactly to the distance between eye and screen—around 70cm. I have now been using the new goggles since December and they have had a lasting beneficial effect on my neck problems. More to the point, though, I am now seeing the screen much more clearly than I had thought possible. It is still a bit of a pain to keep changing glasses and, on one occasion, I left home wearing the computer lenses instead of my normal varifocals. I soon realised that long distance was out of focus; these glasses certainly wouldn't be suitable for driving.
Another spin-off is that I am now occasionally aware of slight off-focus when out and about with the old varifocals, something I had not noticed before. Obviously my eyes are now used to better resolution at near (1-2 meter) distances and begin to object when unable to see sharply.
On balance, though, I am delighted that I discovered this and am very content with my computer glasses. Strangely enough, I seem not to need them when using the portable MacBook, probably because I am usually looking down at the screen, which I can adjust for angle, rather than straight ahead as at the 27in iMac.
I've been thinking about all this. Wouldn't it be good if we could wear glasses that have an autofocus mechanism so that wherever we look, we would find the object in perfect focus? So I was delighted to read that this serendipitous situation might not be all that far in the future.
According to this article, self-focusing glasses are on the way—and from Israel of all places. Apparently, the Deep Optics company has developed lenses with a see-through liquid-crystal layer that can change electronically in response to the user’s eyes, detecting where the point of focus is directed.
The developers say that in normal circumstances the glasses will focus on the distance. But when you are looking close up, as with a book or newspaper, or medium distance at a computer screen, the processor will calculate where you are looking and adjust the focus up to three diopters.
Good news about all this is that we won’t have to control the glasses or look through a specific area of the lens. All we will need to do is do what a camera lens does as a matter of routine—look and focus.
Unfortunately things are at a relatively early stage and it will be a couple of years before Deep Optics will be handing out lenses to beta testers. Can I join the queue?