New e-glasses aim to replace old bifocals

Vision-sensing specs by PixelOptics adjust for reading at push of a button, taking the good old bifocals into the 21st century.

Matt Hickey
With more than 15 years experience testing hardware (and being obsessed with it), Crave freelance writer Matt Hickey can tell the good gadgets from the great. He also has a keen eye for future technology trends. Matt has blogged for publications including TechCrunch, CrunchGear, and most recently, Gizmodo. Matt is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CBS Interactive. E-mail Matt.
Matt Hickey
2 min read


I'm a lucky guy. I wear glasses, and I like wearing them. They're sort of my way of saying, "Screw you, world, I'm an actual nerd!" My glasses are big, they're black, and they make me look so good that I've destroyed all of my mirrors because I just can't stand it. But they're single index, meaning they're not bifocals. Undoubtedly, though, one of these days (probably around the time I hit 40, according to the research), I'll need to upgrade.

But maybe I won't be getting bifocals even then, as new, electronic glasses are set to roll out in the U.S. later this year that serve the same function. With the press of a button on the side of the frames, the thickness and shape of the lenses adapt to where the wearer is looking. Press once, and you're in for a closeup view. Again, and you're ready to see across the room. Again, and you've got the in-between mode.

The lenses are made with a type of liquid crystal, sandwiched between traditional plastic lenses, that reacts according to the electrical charge passing through it. The frames run on rechargeable batteries. Pressing the button sends a low-wattage jolt through the liquid crystal, which expands or contracts to change the shape of the lenses, thereby changing the focal range. It's simple in theory, but Virginia-based PixelOptics says it's spent 10 years on its emPower series of glasses.

It's a great idea, but PixelOptics is taking it further. The company also has added sensors to the specs that allow them to adjust to different settings automatically. Look down to read a book and the frames become reading glasses. Look back up and they're back to normal.

Trials are under way now, but there's no word on how much the premium for automatic glasses might be. They'll almost certainly be more expensive than regular bifocals and, hopefully, they'll come in a variety of styles. I am a snob, after all.

(Via The Telegraph)