Friday, March 18, 2011

Don't Forget to Charge Your Glasses, Dear

Glasses that adjust close or distant using electrical power
A NEW device may be joining smartphones, iPads and music players that you have to charge overnight: electronic eyeglasses. These glasses have tiny batteries, microchips and assorted electronics to turn reading power on when you need it and off when you don’t.

Traditionally, people who hit their 40s often need extra optical help as farsightedness sets in. They may buy bifocals or no-line progressive lenses. But such glasses have a drawback: the lenses that magnify fine print also blur objects more than an arm’s length away when a wearer looks down, distorting the view when on a staircase, for example, or when swinging at a golf ball.

The new electronic spectacles, called emPower, are intended to handle that problem with an unusual insert in the bottom part of the lenses: liquid crystals, cousins to the familiar ones in television displays. The crystals change how the lenses refract or bend light, just as varying levels of thickness do in traditional glasses.

To call up reading power in the new glasses, users touch the side of the frame. Batteries in the frame send along a current that changes the orientation of molecules in the crystals. Touch the side of the frame again, and the reading power disappears. Turn it off to hit a golf ball; turn it on to read the scorecard...
Growing up, I always had great eyes, never needed glasses.  But since becoming about 45, my vision started to go downhill (not uncommon, of course).  At first, just a little blurring in the left eye.  I went to the optometrist and started glasses. The eyes were somewhat different, with the left being more nearsighted.  Every year I'd get a new prescription, and by end of the year, the eye had changed enough that it was annoying.  The right eye stayed pretty good, although it developed a very slight astigmatism.  This year, when the time came around again, the left eye has become increasingly annoying and blurry and  I decided to see if the eyes could fixed surgically.

 A couple of weeks ago I went to the local eye doc to have my eyes evaluated for lasik surgery.  At the end of the exam he pronounced "I regret to tell you that you are not a candidate for lasik.  I've probably saved you a lot of money.  You need cataract surgery in the left eye."  I guess I wasn't shocked.  Both my parents have had cataract surgery in both eyes, with pretty good results.  I'm a bit torn about my options however. They have new lenses that are adaptive; they allow focusing at both near and distance. I would love to have adaptive eyes again.  I never really adapted to wearing glasses, having them available when I needed them (not to mention my habit of dropping them of the sides of boats, or into marshes).  However, the newer adaptive lenses seem to have a much higher incidence of unhappy recipients.  I don't know if I want to chance it, particularly on my own dime, health insurance doesn't pay the difference between fixed lenses and the adaptive ones, about $2500.  With fixed lenses, I would either have to wear readers, or have one lens fixed short, and the other fixed far, so called "monovision". 

However glasses like this would be nice, in that you could wear them all time, simply turning them on for close vision (that doesn't avoid the dropping issue, but, oh well).  Then I could go with fixed lenses for distance, and use the glasses for close reading and computer work. 

Just what I need, another thing needing charging to keep track of.

Thanks to Brian for the heads up.

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