As we grow older, the lenses of our eyes become stiffer, making it difficult to focus on nearby objects. Presbyopia, as the condition is called, is typically managed using reading glasses and progressive lenses. These, though, only work well when the user’s head points toward the intended area of focus.
Now, a team of engineers at Stanford University has developed a pair of glasses that automatically adjust their focus depending on where the eyes are looking. Although they currently look like a cyborg’s headset, the researchers believe they can eventually be scaled down so that they’re more practical.
The glasses feature eye trackers that constantly monitor where the user is looking. A distance sensor pointed forward of the eyes is used to assess how far away the objects that the user is looking at are. The lenses, which can adjust their shape by pumping liquid in and out of their interior, are then able to automatically change their focal point to put the intended target in focus.
The individual components, such as the lenses and eye trackers, have been developed by other groups in the past. The new technology brings these together to operate coherently as, what the researchers have dubbed, “autofocals”.
“More than a billion people have presbyopia and we’ve created a pair of autofocal lenses that might one day correct their vision far more effectively than traditional glasses,” said Stanford electrical engineer Gordon Wetzstein, who worked on the new device. “This technology could affect billions of people’s lives in a meaningful way that most techno-gadgets never will.”
Paper in journal Science Advances: Autofocals: Evaluating gaze-contingent eyeglasses for presbyopes