Tailored Displays compensate for vision problems

A university research project hopes to reduce the need for eyeglasses

Researchers have built a prototype display designed to compensate for vision problems so that viewers don't need to wear glasses.

The display is only one centimeter square, but packs a resolution of 1224 by 80 pixels at 1800 pixels per inch. In comparison, Apple's Retina display on its iPhone 4S is 326 pixels per inch.

"We need such high quality to be able to make very fine adjustments," said Vitor Pamplona , a Ph.D. student at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, on Tuesday. "The software shoots light rays for different sections of the cornea."

Called Tailored Displays, he said that they could compensation for myopia (commonly known as near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), astigmatism and eventually retinal detachment. He imagined that one day users would enter their prescriptions into Facebook. "When someone logs in, the display could automatically adjust," he said.

Pamplona has worked on projects involving eyesight before, namely NETRA at the MIT Media Lab, which used a smartphone to measure the eyeglass prescriptions of people in developing countries. See a past video of the project on YouTube.

Pamplona said that in the retina of the eye there are millions of cones, which are responsible for color vision. He likened the cones to pixels and said that each cone receives 40 to 50 rays of light. It's those individual rays of light that need to be manipulated to compensate for vision aberrations. He said that it could be possible for two people with different prescriptions to look at a display simultaneously, but that he and the team weren't working on that yet.

To make the prototype screen, Pamplona used parts from a US$130 head-mounted display from Vuzix. He layered the two displays, since there were one for each eye, and came up with the needed resolution for the project. "That's not very appealing for a final device though," he said. The team is looking for alternatives.

Pamplona predicted that within two years there should be a smartphone-sized screen. In order to produce television-sized displays, TV graphics processors would need to be developed further in order to handle the massive resolution.

He said he thinks there is a commercial market for the technology. "After the 3D hype is over, manufacturers are going to be looking for new features," he said.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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