Article Date: 5/1/2012

The Future of Eyewear
tech time

The Future of Eyewear

Take a look at the technologies that will shape eyewear's quantum leap.

Scot Morris, O.D., F.A.A.O.

Writer Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” For this month's column, nothing could be more applicable. A quantum change is coming in vision, and here I'd like to share some of the “really cool” technologies that are shaping and will shape the field of eyewear.

Customized digital lenses

Like most things in our society, ophthalmic lenses have gone digital. Available in single vision and progressive forms, customized digital spectacle lenses are a function of a digital refraction, digital measurements and exciting changes in digital surfacing.

Let's breakdown these functions: The digital refraction allows for the measurement of not only standard first-order refractive error (sphere, cylinder and axis) but also for correction of higher-order errors, such as spherical aberration, inferior coma and trefoil. This digital refraction is then combined with digital lens measurement technology, which measures the standard pupillary distance and major reference point, plus things like pantoscopic tilt, face wrap, vertex distance and eye rotation. Lastly, computer-guided equipment digitally “etches” the proper prescription onto both sides of the respective lens material, thus minimizing overall “optical swim” and adaptation issues.

Did I tell you that this digital lens technology is already available from several manufacturers? You will need to invest in new technology to “play this game.” The rewards to both the patient (enhanced visual comfort and performance) and the practice (profitability) are very appealing.

Automatic adaptive power

Another emerging technology: Lenses that change their prescription automatically based on where you look. With the first generation of this technology, “membranes” are actually embedded within the lenses. A small computer chip senses head position and changes the refractive density of the membrane to create positive power. The technology will also be adapted for intermediate vision.

Future adaptations will likely include lenses that actually sense where you are looking and change their power to adapt to your individual working distance throughout the entire lens. At that point, we may prescribe a clear silicon-like wafer that changes prescription, index and light transmission, which would actually work for everyone all the time instead of just for individual lenses.

Virtual display

The third technology — this one is “to cool for school” — is virtual heads-up displays in our glasses. Space age or reality? Reality, actually. Google, among other companies, has been working on these lenses for a while, and some are already available. (See “Augmented Reality Sets Sights on Eyewear,” on page 12 for further information.) This technology will allow for a virtual display at an intermediate distance. Think fighter pilot headsets. Better yet, Minority Report is now here. These lenses will “read” QR codes (two-dimensional bar codes) or embedded radio frequency identification devices (RFID) in everyday items to create personalized, real-time, virtual display commercials. Moreover, this technology will allow us to become “more connected,” as we watch the game, pull up a Wikipedia topic, check our stocks, watch YouTube, etc., while we are working or playing. Talk about information overload. OM


Optometric Management, Volume: 47 , Issue: May 2012, page(s): 74