Vision-correcting display lets users ditch their reading glasses


July 30, 2014

Researchers at UC Berkeley claim to have created a vision-correcting matrix for display screens

Researchers at UC Berkeley claim to have created a vision-correcting matrix for display screens

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We've seen a number of glasses-free 3D technologies in recent years, most famously in Nintendo's 3DS, but now researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and MIT have created a prototype device that allows those with vision problems to ditch their eyeglasses and contact lenses when viewing regular 2D computer displays by compensating for the viewer's visual impairment.

The prototype device consists of a screen printed with a matrix of pinholes measuring just 75 microns in diameter and separated by gaps 390 microns wide. This printed pinhole screen was then inserted between two layers of clear acrylic and attached it to an iPod display. Using an algorithm that takes into account a person's eyeglasses prescription, the screen is able to compensate for an individual's specific visual impairment by adjusting the intensity and direction of the light emitted from each screen pixel.

In this way, by way of a technique called deconvolution – a process of reversing optical distortion similar to that used to correct images on the Hubble telescope’s distorted mirror – the light from the image that passes through the pinhole matrix will be perceived by the user as a sharp image.

In a trial to test this set up, the team used a camera whose lens was adjusted to emulate farsightedness in a human eye, and then displayed images to that camera. When the image-correcting matrix was placed between the screen and the observing camera, the image resolved into sharp focus.

"Our technique distorts the image such that, when the intended user looks at the screen, the image will appear sharp to that particular viewer,” said Brian Barsky, UC Berkeley professor of computer science and vision science who is leading the project. "But if someone else were to look at the image, it would look bad."

Currently, the device also requires that the viewer remain in a fixed position for the matrix to be effective. However, Fu-Chung Huang, who is lead author of the study, says that eye-tracking technology could be used in future to allow the displays to adapt to the position of the viewer's head. He says the team also hopes to add multi-way correction that would allow users with different visual problems to view sharp images on the same display.

In addition to common problems such as farsightedness, the team says the technology could one day also help those with more complex problems, known as high order aberrations, which eyeglasses and contact lenses are unable to correct.

"We now live in a world where displays are ubiquitous, and being able to interact with displays is taken for granted," said Barsky. "People with higher order aberrations often have irregularities in the shape of the cornea, and this irregular shape makes it very difficult to have a contact lens that will fit. In some cases, this can be a barrier to holding certain jobs because many workers need to look at a screen as part of their work. This research could transform their lives, and I am passionate about that potential."

The research team's will present their findings at SIGGRAPH 2014 (Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques) conference in Vancouver, Canada on August 12th this year. Their paper is published in the journal ACM Transactions on Graphics.

The following video shows the prototype screen in use, and explains some of the background to its development.

Source: UC Berkeley

About the Author
Colin Jeffrey Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf. All articles by Colin Jeffrey

Swell. They'll need to build it into windshields, too.


What you are telling me is that for me to read your product now I will need to take off my eyeglasses? I hope this is all accomplished within the confines of a safety zone because I for one am legally blind as far as making sense of what is within 3 feet of my sight when I am not wearing my eyeglasses.


If this concept is similar to pinhole glasses (short sighted wearer), then I see the benefit straight up. However the diagram shows +4.5 Dioptre which is long sighted.

Without knowing more about the optics of a human eye where short and long sighted focus is concerned (particularly since some people have both), I can't imagine this system would work very well unless you had a way of verying the holes in the material to focus, based on what you feel is a comfortable reading distance from your eyes. ie - if you buy a fixed matrix, you would have to tell the seller what your comfortable reading distance is and you eye condition for a custom build.

Plus this would strill drive most people nuts as most people have one eye worse then the other, so one eye would be in focus not both.


I have used this pin hole projection method for years whenever I mislay my glasses.

Make a fist and turn your hand into a little telescope with a pin hole in the center. Then hold it up to your eye and move it closer or farther until what you are looking at is in focus. It works amazingly well. I often do this in the middle of the night to read my bedroom LED clock rather than grope around for my glasses. With a little practice it only takes a second to do.


@Bob: I use that technique too, and it works like a dream. The key principle is, you have to look through a pinhole that is smaller than the pupil of your eye---a relatively easy thing to accomplish by curling up your index finger until a tiny gap is left in the middle, then putting it against your eye. The rest of the fist is irrelevant, although it is a more natural motion to curl the whole hand. There is a drawback, though. What the technique accomplishes is trading image brightness for sharpness (depth of field, actually). So the resulting sharp image will be dimmer. It can turn out to be a problem if the lighting is poor to begin with.

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