FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Smart Glasses Automatically Focus, Enhance Hearing

The legions of aging Boomers who suddenly realize that they need bifocals and hearing aids may soon welcome battery-powered "smart glasses" that automatically compensate for distance and amplify sound.

While hardly a fashion statement, a prototype developed at the University of Arizona in Tuscon demonstrates the feasability of glasses with lenses that shift focus between long-range and short-range objects. The lenses contain a liquid crystal solution with molecules that, when given a mild electric charge, rotate to change focus.
Unlike bifocals, smart glasses provide a full view for the wearer, not just the top or bottom half.

A Roanoke, VA-based optical company called PixelOptics, is developing a commercial version of the glasses, featuring what it calls "supervision" technology. No word on when the glasses will be available from your local optician.

Auto focus is not the only way that glasses are getting smarter. A Dutch consortium is planning to market a line of eyeglasses called Varibel, which amplify sound while filtering out background noise. The Varibels are reportedly more sensitive and provide better sound quality than conventional hearing aids.

Sources: Science News, Roland Piquepaille's Tech Trends, Eurekalert