Electronic Eyeglasses Coming to Southern California

The new device turns reading power on with a tap on the frame.

By Daisy Lin
|  Thursday, Aug 25, 2011  |  Updated 11:04 AM PDT
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New electronic eyeglasses switches from far to near vision with a tap on the frame.

New electronic eyeglasses switches from far to near vision with a tap on the frame.

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You've heard of smart phones, but what about "smart" eyeglasses? It's a brand new electronic device that turns reading power on with a tap on the frame, and it is about to hit Southern California.

When you reach 40 years old, a condition called presbyopia starts to kick in, and it becomes harder to adjust your ability to switch from distance to near vision. Some people wear bifocals, progressives, contact lenses -- but all have disadvantages and distortion.

At South Coast Optometry, Dr. Daniel Quon helps patients who have trouble seeing clearly.

But he's a patient, too. He wears the latest progressive glasses, and he knows all too well, the drawbacks.

"You always knew you had progressives on when you look at the lower half of the lenses, things are slightly blurred when you look at stairs or things at a distance. Things that are further away on the ground," Quon said, "Most progressive lens wearers, I say at least 10 percent drop out because they can't stand the aberration they see with their lenses."

So when he heard about new "electronic eyeglasses" coming onto the market, he was curious to try them out himself. Unlike regular glasses, the electronic glasses have tiny batteries and microchips in them.

The lenses are filled with liquid crystals that can change the magnification instantly, Rick Mark from PixelOptics said.

"So liquid crystal in these lenses are that which when turned on, refract or bend light. So we can see to our full need of near," Mark said.

So when you want to read, tap once on the side of the frame to activate the liquid crystals and turn the reading vision on. Tap again to turn it off. Or, you can set it to the automatic setting, and the glasses will detect whether you need far or near vision based on the tilt of your head.

"It's just like in your smart phone, called an accelerometer, or your iPad, when you flip that and it goes from portrait and landscape. This happens to have the world's smallest accelerometer built into the processing unit," Mark said.

You charge them at night on a charging unit. The battery lasts for about two full days.

Quon said he was skeptical at first about these glasses, but the doubts vanished when he tried them.

"When I move my head to look at the floor, oh my gosh, it's still clear," he said. "You don't get the blurry images on the floor… it's almost imperceptible, you can't see the progressives kicking in. Impressive, they're innovative, and they're wonderful."

The emPower glasses are launching in Southern California on Oct. 1. They will be available at some optometry offices. They cost around 20-30 percent more than your current progressive eyewear.

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