Futuristic eyeglasses darken when you lose concentration

Focus is turning out to be a casualty of the connected era. These glasses might just help you reclaim a little.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read

When the glasses are dark, you are losing focus. Concentrate to make them clear again. Narbis

Though computers and other devices have improved our ability to stay connected and informed, they've most certainly harmed our ability to focus. With text messages, email alerts and news flashes whizzing at us from the sides of our screens, it's getting harder and harder to concentrate on one thing at a time.

A new pair of glasses now raising funds on Kickstarter hopes to help you get some of your mental focus back. The glasses have three built-in sensors -- one on each side and one on the top. When you put the glasses on, the sensors touch as much skin as possible. Then, you turn the glasses on from the module that mounts to your arm with a special sleeve.

According to the inventor of the system, called Narbis, the sensors will then measure your brain waves, using a process known as neurofeedback, to darken the glasses when you lose focus and lighten them when you regain it. By working to keep the glasses clear, you can permanently train your brain to focus at will, the inventor says.

The system comes with an accompanying app that will have five training programs you can use on your smartphone. "Focus" claims to help you concentrate better; "performance" promises to heighten creativity and sharpen your motor skills; "calm" claims to help you deal with your stress; "mood" claims to help you improve your self-confidence and self-awareness; and "sleep" claims to do exactly what it sounds like. You can apparently run any of the programs while doing ordinary activities like reading, watching TV or working on the computer.

The glasses were invented by Devon Greco, who is based in Philadelphia. He has built a working prototype and is seeking to raise a total of $150,000 to start production on the glasses, which are not prescription and can be worn over contacts or other eyeglasses.

Right now, you can get a super-early-bird deal on the Narbis system for $295 (about £199, AU$385). After that, the regular early-bird deal will set you back $345 (about £233, AU$450). When those are gone, the standard price will be $375 (about £253, AU$489). The devices are expected to be released in December and can be shipped worldwide, although the prices don't include delivery charges.

Before shelling out any cash, however, you should be aware that there is some debate over the efficacy of neurofeedback. There are even two different articles in Psychology Today that provide opposing evaluations of the treatment. This one casts some doubt on it, while this one talks about how neurofeedback can actually help reshape the brain. With the price tag for the glasses set kind of high, you might want to have a read first.