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PixelOptics to launch 'world's first electronic focusing eyewear'


January 12, 2011

PixelOptics' emPower! electronic focusing glasses

PixelOptics' emPower! electronic focusing glasses

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We have previously reported on the development of prototype adaptive focus glasses at the University of Arizona (UA) that were able to switch focus electronically. Unlike manually adjustable focus glasses, such as TruFocals, that place a flexible liquid lens between two rigid lenses, the lenses of the prototype glasses consisted of a layer of liquid crystals sandwiched between two pieces of glass. By applying an electric charge, the orientation of the liquid crystals – and therefore the optical path length through the lens – was able to be changed, resulting in glasses that changed focus electronically. This technology is now on its way to consumers with PixelOptics showing its emPower! glasses at CES 2011.

Relying on liquid crystals, the glasses, which PixelOptics will bring to market under the brand name emPower!, are able to switch focus in the blink of an eye and with no moving parts – unless you count the reorientation of the liquid crystals. Being electronically activated also allows for a neat feature. While the wearer is able to manually activate the change of focus by touching the arm of the emPower! glasses, thanks to an accelerometer embedded in the arm, with a swipe they can also set the glasses to change focus automatically when they look down to read.

Being electronic also means batteries. The battery embedded in the glasses can be recharged in around two hours using an inductive charger and is good for two to three days, depending on usage patterns.

Calling them the “world’s first electronic focusing eyewear,” PixelOptics' emPower! glasses are based on the technology originally developed at UA, which licensed three patents to Johnson & Johnson, who then sold the patent licenses to PixelOptics to commercialize the technology. That commercialization is set to happen some time this year when PixelOptics plans to launch its emPower! glasses in around 36 different styles for around US$1,000 to $1,200.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

1) Do these adapt to aging eyes, so that the time between recommended eye exams can be extended? 2) If the battery fails, do these default to a \"safe\" intermediate prescription or go to one of the extremes?

Gary Fisher

Guessing its a hoax

Facebook User

User: What makes you think this is a hoax? All the technology is real and available, and the idea is certainly marketable.

Charles Bosse

If the glasses change automatically when you look down to read, this may constitute a hazard since bifocals are well known to cause people going down stairs to trip and fall. They have to look down but the lower part of the bifocal lens prevents them from seeing properly at a distance past about 18 inches. Older people, especially, must be warned not to use bifocals except for reading.

Adrian Akau

So to answer the questions.... No this is not a hoax it will be released this month in a few test areas(mostly in the south). First, these do not extend the time period for the recommend eye exam. They eye exam is not only for the RX but mainly for checking the health of the eye as much can happen in the course of a year. Second, if the batteries fail, They do resort back to Distance mode with intermediate at the bottom. This is not mainly marketed for older people. Honestly its mainly going to be marketed for the types of people who read these article and have iPhones and Android phones... The price is a downfall but the technology is real, tested, and great for those who are constantly complain about the distortion and the abberations in the side of the lenses.

Matthew Bates
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