University of Utah's 'smart glasses' change focus automatically

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The 'smart glasses' automatically change the shape of their liquid lenses using an algorithm that accounts for an individual's eyeglass prescription and the distance between the person and the object he or she is focusing on.

University of Utah researchers have developed “smart glasses” that mimic the function of the eye’s lens and automatically focus on what an individual is looking at.

As we age, our lenses lose flexibility and the ability to focus at different differences. Traditional glasses compensate for this stiffness, but may fall short when people need help to focus at multiple distances.

The University of Utah team made liquid lenses out of glycerin “sandwiched” between flexible membranes and placed them in electromechanical frames, according to a statement. The frames make the membranes bend, which changes their focus.

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A user plugs his or her prescription into a mobile app, while a sensor on the bridge of the glasses pinpoints what the user is looking at and measures how far away it is using pulses of infrared light. An algorithm uses these two factors to adjust the shape of the lenses so the user may focus on the object.

“The glasses incorporate an impressive array of electrical, mechanical, optical, sensor, and computer technologies with the goal of developing a one-size-fits-all approach to vision correction,” said Andrew Weitz, program director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, which funded the research.

It takes 14 milliseconds for the lens to refocus if the user looks elsewhere, the NIBIB said in the statement. The research is published in Optics Express.

The team is working on a smaller, lighter design for the device, which could hit the market in three years, the NIBIB said. The company, Sharpeyes, was launched to commercialize the device.

“Theoretically, these would be the only glasses a person would ever have to buy because they can correct the majority of focusing problems,” said Carlos Mastrangelo, a electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Utah. “Users just have to input their new prescription as their eyesight changes.” 

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