Nav: Home

Smart glasses follow our eyes, focus automatically

June 28, 2019

Though it may not have the sting of death and taxes, presbyopia is another of life's guarantees. This vision defect plagues most of us starting about age 45, as the lenses in our eyes lose the elasticity needed to focus on nearby objects. For some people reading glasses suffice to overcome the difficulty, but for many people the only fix, short of surgery, is to wear progressive lenses.

"More than a billion people have presbyopia and we've created a pair of autofocal lenses that might one day correct their vision far more effectively than traditional glasses," said Stanford electrical engineer Gordon Wetzstein. For now, the prototype looks like virtual reality goggles but the team hopes to streamline later versions.

Wetzstein's prototype glasses - dubbed autofocals - are intended to solve the main problem with today's progressive lenses: These traditional glasses require the wearer to align their head to focus properly. Imagine driving a car and looking in a side mirror to change lanes. With progressive lenses, there's little or no peripheral focus. The driver must switch from looking at the road ahead through the top of the glasses, then turn almost 90 degrees to see the nearby mirror through the lower part of the lens.

This visual shift can also make it difficult to navigate the world. "People wearing progressive lenses have a higher risk of falling and injuring themselves," said graduate student Robert Konrad, a co-author on a paper describing the autofocal glasses published June 28 in the journal Science Advances.

The Stanford prototype works much like the lens of the eye, with fluid-filled lenses that bulge and thin as the field of vision changes. It also includes eye-tracking sensors that triangulate where a person is looking and determine the precise distance to the object of interest. The team did not invent these lenses or eye-trackers, but they did develop the software system that harnesses this eye-tracking data to keep the fluid-filled lenses in constant and perfect focus.

Nitish Padmanaban, a graduate student and first author on the paper, said other teams had previously tried to apply autofocus lenses to presbyopia. But without guidance from the eye-tracking hardware and system software, those earlier efforts were no better than wearing traditional progressive lenses.

To validate its approach, the Stanford team tested the prototype on 56 people with presbyopia. Test subjects said the autofocus lenses performed better and faster at reading and other tasks. Wearers also tended to prefer the autofocal glasses to the experience of progressive lenses - bulk and weight aside.

If the approach sounds a bit like virtual reality, that isn't far off. Wetzstein's lab is at the forefront of vision systems for virtual and augmented reality. It was in the course of such work that the researchers became aware of the new autofocus lenses and eye-trackers and had the insight to combine these elements to create a potentially transformative product.

The next step will be to downsize the technology. Wetzstein thinks it may take a few years to develop autofocal glasses that are lightweight, energy efficient and stylish. But he is convinced that autofocals are the future of vision correction.

"This technology could affect billions of people's lives in a meaningful way that most techno-gadgets never will," he said.
-end-
Gordon Wetzstein is also director of the Stanford Computational Imaging Lab and a member of Stanford Bio-X and the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute.

This research was funded in part by Intel Corporation, NVIDIA, an Okawa Research Grant, a Sloan Fellowship and the National Science Foundation.

Stanford University

Related Virtual Reality Articles:

Easing the burden of coronavirus with virtual reality
A new article discusses the psychological stresses imposed by the coronavirus pandemic and suggests that virtual reality can help alleviate the psychological impact of the need for social isolation.
Virtual reality makes empathy easier
Virtual reality activates brain networks that increase your ability to identify with other people, according to new research published in eNeuro.
Physiotherapy could be done at home using virtual reality
Virtual reality could help physiotherapy patients complete their exercises at home successfully thanks to researchers at WMG, University of Warwick, who managed to combine VR technology with 3D motion capture.
Using virtual reality to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder
Novel interventions using virtual reality to aid individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) handle common scenarios may include helping youngsters navigate air travel.
Virtual reality illuminates the power of opioid-associated memories
The brain acts differently when remembering environments associated with drug use.
Virtual reality could help flu vaccination rates
Using a virtual reality simulation to show how flu spreads and its impact on others could be a way to encourage more people to get a flu vaccination, according to a study by researchers at the University of Georgia and the Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Virtual reality becomes more real
Scientists from Skoltech ADASE (Advanced Data Analytics in Science and Engineering) lab have found a way to enhance depth map resolution, which should make virtual reality and computer graphics more realistic.
Is virtual reality the next big thing in art therapy?
Researchers from Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions in the Creative Arts Therapies Department conducted a study to see if virtual reality can be used as an expressive tool in art therapy.
Intuitive in the virtual reality
Through the crafty use of magnetic fields, scientists from HZDR and Johannes Kepler University in Linz have developed the first electronic sensor that can simultaneously process both touchless and tactile stimuli.
An artificial skin that can help rehabilitation and enhance virtual reality
EPFL scientists have developed a soft artificial skin that provides haptic feedback and -- thanks to a sophisticated self-sensing mechanism -- has the potential to instantaneously adapt to a wearer's movements.
More Virtual Reality News and Virtual Reality Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.