Bifocals are great, they’ve been around for over 200 years and they help persons with presbyopia read books and newspapers. Yet there have been developments, such as the automobile and the computer, that have occurred over the course of these 200 years that make bifocals cumbersome. You have to adjust your head to read a book or read the print on a smartphone or tablet computer. Also, bifocals aren’t much help when you are driving and you need to look at the speedometer or GPS unit. With all the technology and smart minds out there, can’t someone improve upon Ben Franklin’s invention?
Wouldn’t you know it, two companies have improved upon the humble bifocal. The first company is PH Technical Labs out of Dallas. The company showcased its product at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The principals first wanted to eyeglasses with smart lenses that would adjust to the distance between the person and the object in question, but they scrapped that idea as too bulky. Instead they improved upon the eyeglass frame. Their device, known as Dynafocals consists of a frame with regular prescription lenses. A sensing chip is built into the frame that detects the distance from the object, be it a book, computer screen or other item and sends a signal to the nose pad. The frame then inflates and adjusts accordingly. This product impressed the folks at the Consumer Electronics Show enough that they awarded the company the CES 2018 Innovation Award.
The second type of smart bifocals grew out of personal annoyance. Carlos Mastrangelo, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Utah, didn’t like his bifocals. He was constantly taking them on and off and couldn’t wear them while driving. “I kept asking myself why I am being treated with technology developed by Benjamin Franklin,” said Mastrangelo. “I don’t live in the 18th century.” So, he decided to make his own smart glasses
Mastrangelo’s glasses are made of liquid lenses that focus automatically on what the person is viewing. A sensor in the bridge uses infrared light to determine the distance between the glasses an object. It takes about 14 milliseconds for the glasses to adjust, which is just 1 millisecond slower than the blink of an eye. The glasses run on a rechargeable battery that lasts for up to 24 hours.
While the current design looks more like Minion googles than eyeglasses, Mastrangelo and doctoral student Nazmul Hasan are working on slimmer more stylish glasses. The next generation of these glasses will have eye tracking and a depth camera, so that the lenses can more accurately track what the wearing is looking at. Of course, these glasses won’t come cheap. The glasses are expected to sell for $500 to $1,000.
Of course, I’m waiting for glasses that are smart enough not to get lost or at least they sound an alarm before you sit on them.