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Could this vision-correcting display replace eyeglasses?

Instead of relying on optics to correct a viewer's vision, a team out of UC Berkeley and MIT look to computation.

  • CBS News Staff

Tired of having to wear glasses every time you look at a computer or smartphone? You're not alone. A team from UC Berkeley and MIT is developing software that could solve that common modern problem.

"Could we, somehow, undo those vision problems and put on the same screen an image that if that viewer would look at it, it would seem to be sharp?" asked Brian Barsky, a UC Berkeley professor of computer science and vision science and leader of the project.

At left, the way a farsighted person would see a computer screen without corrective lenses. On the right, how the image would look on a display that compensates for visual impairments. Source image from dfbphotos/Flickr; modified by Fu-Chung Huang

In a demonstration, an iPod shows an "E" that's blurry by design. But once the image reaches a farsighted eye, it looks perfectly in focus. The effect doesn't result from a special screen or monitor attachment, but from software that manipulates the intensity of light that emanates from a single image pixel to compensate for a viewer's specific vision problems.

"Essentially what we're doing is altering the light that comes out of each pixel in a very carefully controlled fashion," Barsky told CBS San Francisco, adding in a statement, "Our technique distorts the image such that, when the intended user looks at the screen, the image will appear sharp to that particular viewer. But if someone else were to look at the image, it would look bad."

Commonly known as farsightedness, hyperopia affects nearly 10 percent of Americans, according to the National Eye Institute. The vision-correcting display solution could also someday provide help for people with even more serious vision problems.

"The part that I'm most passionate about is not the convenience for the billions of people who have eyeglasses," Barsky explained, "but for the millions who have problems with their eyes that are not correctable by eyeglasses."

This latest approach aims to improve upon earlier versions of vision-correcting displays that resulted in low-contrast images. Barsky and team will present their research (PDF) and light-field display later this month at the Siggraph conference in Vancouver.

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