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Adaptive eye glasses maybe

  1. Mar 4, 2006 #1
    OK - here's something I'd like to "see" before I'm worm food...

    Since a fairly modest percentage of the world population either now regularly uses or will eventually use some type of eye glasses, I'm surprised that there isn't a clamor to develop an affordable, "smart", variable/tunable focal length version. I know cost would be a major issue initially but given the potential volume of the market, I can't see (no pun intended :rolleyes: ) that being the real problem. Adaptive optics using piezoelectric materials is already widely used in astronomy to improve the sharpness of images from ground-based telescopes. What would be so difficult about a scaled down, manual version for eye glasses.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not talking about some exotic, automatic correction system that somehow patches into the brain for image clarity feedback. I'm just thinking about a product that provides some ability for the user to manually and independently (for each lens or lens sub-region) adjust, if nothing else, the lens thickness and maybe some very primitive contouring parameters (for simple focal length correction). Maybe this could be done with a fairly simple software interface running on the owner's laptop or PDA. He/she could fiddle with a few simple parameters noting whether the clarity improves or get worse. The laptop could wirelessly communicate the current parameters to the receiver/processor/driver in the glasses frame. These would be converted to a distributed set of electrical potentials (easier said then done)which then alter the particular geometry of the lens. The user would experience the changed optics in real time and be able decide whether they were proceeding in the right "direction". I think that by such fiddling it would be a fairly simple, intuitive, procedure to adjust ones clarity of vision.

    A more sophisticated (and expensive) version of the software program could simulate the normal examining process performed by an optometrist as they present alternative images, testing and by eleimation converging on the optimal clarity for a set of distances. The results of this procedure could then be processed using a well designed set of algorithms to decide the correct lens geometry. This could then be encoded and sent to the glasses for decoding and shaping. But this is just a fancy version with some bells and whistles. The "meat and potatoes" version would just provide an interface to manual focal length adjustment.

    Of course, after "tuning" the lens I'm convinced that there should be some way to "lock in" the modified physical shape in way that wouldn't require any continuous control loop or applied power. We wouldn't want the 747 pilot's glasses suddenly reverting back to a blurr due to a low battery or broken conductor condition. I don't know if any material now exists that can be electrically reshaped and then "frozen" in place until some future reshaping is performed.

    I envision the tuning process to be little more difficult for the end user than focusing a cam-corder or even tuning in a radio station. If they want to manually tune then go for it. Previous working settings could always be saved and reused if the user gets things to wacked. It would be easy to have a default parameter set that maybe just shapes a pair of simple 1.25 maginifiers (or whatever the user decides the default should be).

    Anyway, I'm just thinking out loud. None of this really seems to me to be technically unreasonable or half-baked, though I know there would be huge challenges in transforming the concept into something that people would be willing to pay for. But, when I compare the level of sophistication of this to that of say, a microprocessor, well, this ain't THAT big o' deal. As for me personally, if there were a reliable product like the one I've described, I'd be more than willing to pay $1000 - $2000 (maybe more) to be able to be able to adjust the clarity of my eyesight for maybe 10 or 20 years.

    Any ideas?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 4, 2006 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    My question is why would anyone need this? When you get glasses, as you mentioned, the optometrist works on feedback from the wearer to determine which lens shape, thickness etc... offers the best vision. Bifocals and trifocals are available for people that have needs for near and farsighted viewing. For normal people, vision needs do not fluctuate drastically or often, so there would be no need to constantly change the lens. We're talking normal vision needs, not special microscopic or telescopic functions.
  4. Mar 4, 2006 #3
    Maybe you're right. My experience and that of some (certainly not all and maybe not most) of my friends is such that after the age of 45 or 50 the ability to make minor modifications as needed would be a welcome technical achievement. Many folks with diabetes and a few other diseases that play havok with eyesight would probably concur.

    But, you're probably right in saying that most people that wear eye glasses, even just reading glasses (simple magnifiers), probably wouldn't be interested and see it as just an expensive gimmick. But, it could also be another scenario where a technology begins as a vauable tool for a relative few who do have the need (diabetics and others whose vision does fluctuate drastically) and are willing to pay the price. Then, in time, if the price comes down with improvements and more people experience and communicate some appreciated benefits in the product it could become more widely accepted as "normal" vision correction.

    Or... then again... maybe not :wink:

  5. Mar 5, 2006 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Not a bad idea, imo, but lets take it a step further: automatic focus change. People already wear glasses with multiple focal lengths - why not make the glasses adjust their focus automatically based on the distance to the object you are viewing? No more tilting your head to look through a specific part of the glasses. No more "granny glasses" on the tip of your nose so you can look over them.
  6. Mar 5, 2006 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    I could see it for special needs patients.
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