As reported here, presbyopia — where the lenses in our eyes loose the elasticity needed to focus on nearby objects — affects most of us starting at around age 45. This can mean reading glasses or progressive lenses in order to account for this condition, and while a huge improvement on uncorrected vision, using them is still very inconvenient.
In order to help address this common malady, Stanford electrical engineer Gordon Wetzstein and team have created a pair of glasses dubbed “autofocals” to take care of getting things in focus automatically. Instead of the wearer having to align his or her head properly to focus on an object, these glasses use eye tracking sensors to understand where a person is looking, then triangulates the distance to the object that needs to be in focus. The device’s fluid-filled lenses then bulge and contract as needed to focus on what a person is looking at automatically.
Results, after testing the system on 56 people with presbyopia, are promising. Participants noted that the system performed better and faster at reading and other tasks, and users tended to prefer this system over progressive lenses — disregarding the extra bulk and weight of the system. Given that the glasses are still a prototype, one could see much of this extra bulk eliminated, creating a system that, as Wetzstein puts it, “could affect billions of people’s lives in a meaningful way that most techno-gadgets never will.”