Bifocals have certainly changed in the last few decades. From the early pairs where you could see an obvious line at the point of a lens change, to the invisible merging of lenses for cosmetic reasons.
Bifocals were invented to enable people to see objects at a close range and far away, but soon you may not even need a pair of bifocals at all. A team of researchers from the University of Utah have come up with smart glasses that use liquid as a lens.
The team say that the liquid in these smart glasses automatically adjust and focus for the spectacle wearer. Professor Mastrangelo, who led the team, alongside doctoral student Nazmul Hasan, spoke to Smithsonian Mag.
“The major advantage of these smart eyeglasses is that once a person puts them on, the objects in front of the person always show clear, no matter at what distance the object is,” said Electrical & Computer Engineering Professor Carlos Mastrangelo.
As we age, so does our eyes’ ability to focus on objects at different distances. This is because when we are young our lens can easily change shape to focus as it is soft and malleable, but as we age this lens stiffens and cannot focus so effectively.
This is why we typically see older people with an extra pair of reading glasses. However, these prescription glasses only help you focus on the exact distance you cannot see. They do not change the range of distances. For instance, put on a pair of reading glasses and you can see up close, but you cannot now see into the distance, and vice versa.
These new smart glasses hope to remedy that. They are constructed using glycerin which is encased with flexible membranes, and can therefore change shape almost instantly.
“The lenses are set in frames containing a distance meter on the bridge, which measures the distance from the wearer’s face to nearby objects using infrared light,” Smithsonian Mag explained. “The meter then sends a signal to adjust the curve of the lens. This adjustment can happen quickly, letting the user focus from one object to another in 14 milliseconds.”
Using the app that comes with the smart glasses, the user is able to update the glasses whenever a new prescription is delivered
“This means that as the person’s prescription changes, the lenses can also compensate for that, and there is no need to buy another set for quite a long time,” Mastrangelo said.
As for when these might become commercially available, the team want to improve the style of glasses, which includes reducing the weight and the look of them. After these adjustments have been made, Mastrangelo thinks they could be in the marketplace in a couple of years.