If you wear progressive lens glasses or bifocals, you know you have to look right at whatever you're looking at to see whatever you're looking at in focus. With progressive lenses, everything on your periphery or beneath your straight ahead gaze is fuzzy if you merely shift your eyes rather than your whole head.
Not any more. A company called Pixel Optics has teamed with Panasonic Healthcare to develop emPower!, the first electronic focusing prescription eyewear for those of us with presbyopia (I didn't know that's what the condition was called, even though I suffer from it – it was in the press release, which I used my now suddenly old-fashioned progressive lens glasses to read).
emPower! composite lenses are covered with a thin transparent LCD layer. Enabled by microchips, micromachine accelerometers and nano-rechargeable batteries, emPower! lenses electronically change their molecular structure depending on head movement – essentially, the lenses "know" what you're looking at and activate the near focus prescription only when needed. Otherwise, the entire lens stays at full distance viewing prescription – and you get your old eye-shifting peripheral vision back.
If you tilt your head down to read, the accelerometer detects the motion, the microchip sends an electronic signal to the LCD layer and alters how the liquid crystals refract light, changing the prescription of the lenses, well, faster than a blink of your eye, at least according to Pixel Optics. You can switch the glasses to manual, automatic or off – their natural, progressive prescriptions.
Since you don't need two separate lenses like in bifocals or large enough areas to accommodate two prescriptions as in progressive lenses, emPower! glasses can be stylishly narrow, as you can see from the otherwise non-descriptive photo above.
An emPower! battery charge will last around 30 hours. The glasses will come with a nightstand induction recharger, like the one on your electronic toothbrush.
Not surprisingly, emPower! glasses ain't cheap. A complete pair will run $1,200 at the low end, the price dependent on, as with all glasses, the frame. emPower! glasses will be available at a limited number of eyeglass retailers in the southeastern U.S. starting in April. Availability throughout the country and the world will expand over time.