Feb 14, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers at the University of Utah have used 3D printing to create a prototype pair of "smart glasses" whose liquid lenses can automatically adjust focus. The 3D printed glasses could eliminate the need for bifocals.

As we get older, our eyesight inevitably worsens. By our mid-forties, even those who have never required prescription lenses generally find themselves struggling to read close up, and reading glasses are often required. This is because our eyes get worse at accommodating—or automatically focusing on objects at different distances—as our eyeballs become less flexible with age.

For those who have never needed specs for shortsightedness—the inability to see things clearly at long distances—getting reading glasses is no big deal. You can simply stick them in your bag or by the side of the bed, slipping them on when you feel like reading the newspaper and leaving them off when you just want to see the world around you. But for those who are already shortsighted, losing your ability to see things up close as well is a major hassle. You’re left with two options: get two pairs of glasses, one for seeing near and one for seeing far; or get bifocals, lenses which are split into two fields of vision, one for near and one for far.

In some regards, bifocals are great. Generally, the lower half of the lens is adjusted for close reading, while the top half contains the wearer’s general prescription for seeing things at long distances. For many, however, having this split field of vision causes as many problems as it solves. For example, you can’t see distant objects if they’re low down, and you can’t see near objects if they’re high up! Some wearers even get headaches or dizziness from the experience. The other option, having two individuals pairs of glasses, solves these problems, but requires constant switching back and forth.

Researchers from the University of Utah say the best solution to these sight problems may be “smart glasses,” specs that automatically adjust to focus on the object you are looking at. It sounds too good to be true, but by using “liquid lenses” and a 3D printed frame, the researchers have actually made a pair. “The major advantage of these smart eyeglasses is that once a person puts them on, the objects in front of the person always show clear, no matter at what distance the object is,” said Carlos Mastrangelo, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the university.

The lenses in these seemingly magical smart glasses are made of glycerin, a viscous and non-toxic polyol compound, contained within flexible membranes that can be moved mechanically. Using an infrared sensor—the kind that digital cameras use to focus on the subject—the 3D printed glasses can adjust the position of the membrane to help the wearer focus on the object they are looking at. Best of all, this adjustment takes as little as 14 milliseconds, so wearers can quickly look from one object to another without losing focus.

To produce an ultra-sharp image, these futuristic 3D printed glasses also take into account a wearer’s ordinary prescription. By entering the prescription into an associated smartphone app, the lenses can be automatically calibrated via Bluetooth, and this process can be repeated as the wearer’s prescription changes over time. “This means that as the person’s prescription changes, the lenses can also compensate for that, and there is no need to buy another set for quite a long time,” Mastrangelo said.

Images: Smithsonian

Although the 3D printed smart glasses are yet to be scientifically tested, Mastrangelo and his team have tried them out, and found that they seem to be working as they should. While 3D printing was used to create the prototype, it’s very possible that the researchers will start from square one when it comes to designing the frames. That’s because, at present, the glasses look totally ridiculous, their inch-thick frames seeming more like something from the distant, distant past than the future.

As well as working on the aesthetics of the 3D printed glasses, the researchers also need to make them lighter and make their electronic subsystems smaller. Once this has all been done, the specs could be commercially available within two or three years.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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3Drasle wrote at 2/16/2017 1:42:52 PM:

In 2009: https://www.ted.com/talks/josh_silver_demos_adjustable_liquid_filled_eyeglasses

Eric Spidell wrote at 2/15/2017 8:55:32 AM:

I want these now! Just as they are!

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