PixelOptics emPower! – dynamic electronic spectacle lens
The folks from PixelOptics have invented electronic spectacles that can automatically change focus as you lower your head to read a book, thus making bifocal spectacles obsolete. The product, called emPower!, has been under development for 10 years and looks like an ordinary pair of spectacles. Since they are partnering with many frames manufactures, the spectacles will be available in a wide range of frames and colors.
The patented electronic lenses from PixelOptics provide dynamic and intelligent optics by using a combination of chemistry, electricity, and components that detect if the glasses are tilted in order to correct visual problems such as presbyopia, or loss of near focus which is common in people over 40 years old.
The lens has a section with an electro-active liquid crystal layer within it, and the index of refraction of this layer can be changed by a small electrical current passing through it, with the focal length varying with the current applied. The rechargeable battery is recharged over two to three hours in a charging cradle. The battery can hold its charge for up to 3 or 5 days, although the folks from PixelOptics recommend recharging every night.
The only visible difference is a small button on the side, which is used to select one of three operating modes. In automatic mode the electro-active layer is turned on and the focus changes automatically and almost instantly as the wearer tilts his or her head (to read a book or newspaper for example) and looks through the transparent electronic layer. In manual on mode the lenses behave like normal progressive lenses with the electronic layer frozen in the on position for close distances with the eyes looking down, but objects straight ahead in the distance can still be seen clearly. In manual off mode there is no current in the electronic layer, and so the lenses act like a low power progressive lens, which has little distortion and is good for everyday activities such as playing sports, walking, and so on.
Unlike bifocal glasses, the electronic glasses offer uninterrupted vision, just like progressive lenses but with wider distance vision, wider intermediate vision, wider reading vision and half of the peripheral “swim” that most people experience while wearing a progressive lens. They also give optimal vision for far and near distances, and in between.
CEO of PixelOptics, Ronald Blum said the emPower! will be market tested in the last quarter of this year in Washington DC, Virginia and North Carolina and will be released for general sale in the US later in 2010. It will reach European markets in the beginning of 2011. Although it is not a huge breakthrough regarding the technology, it could be helpful until some advanced ocular technology emerges.