Adjustable eyeglasses may be obsolete before they even ship

Another attempt at adjustable-vision lenses is still less useful than HUD-enabled contact lenses

A British company called Eyejusters has released a set of glasses designed to fix the focus problems of people whose vision deteriorates over time, who need one power of magnification for long distance and another up close or simply those who want more magnification temporarily for some detail work.

The glasses from Eyejusters come with a dial on the side wearers can use to increase or decrease the magnification at will.

The lenses use a technology called SlideLens that replaces single lenses with dual. Each lens is actually a pair of magnifiers with a slightly different shape and an adjustment mechanism that changes the point of focus in the same way binoculars and camera lenses do.

The frames are also adjustable so they can fit more than the usual narrow range of face sizes addressed by normal glasses.

The glasses are designed to be cheap, adaptable and easily distributable in poor or undeveloped countries, where custom-cut prescription lenses are prohibitively expensive and far too raree.

The noble purpose and hideous styling will set Eyejusters apart from other attempts to solve the same problem, most of which are both more technically elegant and more fashionable.

Oxford University physicist Joshua Silver started manufacturing glasses with similar capabilities for similar reasons in 2009, using water-filled lenses as the adjustment mechanism rather than changing the proximity of the lenses themselves.

Last Fall a company called PixelOptics introduced last fall a set of specs that use electro-optical liquid crystals and electronic controls to change the focus of glasses and then turn off the adjuster to keep the adjustments from shifting.

Another company called SuperFocus has been selling adjustable glasses using lenses that can be snapped in or out of the eyeglass frame rather than simply sliding back and forth.

For more than a decade, researchers have also been investigating various ways to change the focus of lenses, both for eyeglasses and for optical devices such as cameras, telescopes and spy satellites.

The thing is, contact-lens companies – with the help of the U.S. military and various computer manufacturers – have been working on an augmented reality alternative: contact lenses with embedded computer heads-up-displays, which can also change the focus of what the wearer sees.

Smart contact lenses aren't going to do anything about vision problems in the third world. But they will do quite a lot for the bulk of eyeglass wearers – making them as dangerous and inattentive while walking and web browsing as they are now texting and driving.

In the face of that kind of leap in vision-enhancement technology, you have to wonder how many people will be satisfied simply being able to see clearly.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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