If someone mentions the phrase "high-tech glasses," you probably assume that person is talking about Google Glass, the smartphone-on-a-headband that Google hopes to offer for sale next year.
The truth is, though, that 2013 has been the Year of the High-Tech Glasses in other, quieter ways. At least three new eyeglass technologies have arrived. They're not intended to bring the Internet to your eyeball. They have a more traditional goal: improving your vision.
Here's a look at three.
ADLENS VARIABLE FOCUS
Yes, it's an unfortunate name; Adlens glasses may be the one place in today's world where you won't encounter advertising.
"Ad," in this case, is short for "adjustable"; these are variable-focus glasses. The lenses of the Lennon and Hemispheres styles ($US80 and $US100; adlens.com) are filled with liquid, and cylindrical plastic knobs protrude from the sides. By turning the knobs, you precisely adjust the liquid pressure on a curved membrane inside the lens, affecting its power (from 4.5 to +3.5 diopters). They can handle even severe nearsightedness or farsightedness. They don't work for the blurriness of astigmatism, but they're perfect for presbyopia (better known as "over-40-reading-glasses-syndrome").
The Adlens Hemisphere ... in a John Lennon style
There are distinct advantages to variable-focus glasses like these. First, you can tweak the lenses independently for each eye. Second, you can adjust them for different situations; tired eyes often need more help — or even different people. They're a natural for restaurants, which can hand them out to patrons who've forgotten their reading glasses.
Third, you can adjust them yourself, without requiring an eye doctor or a prescription. That's a big deal in poor countries like Rwanda, where, Adlens says, there are 10 million people but only 14 optometrists. Even though a million Rwandans need glasses, almost nobody has them, according to the company. When you buy a pair of these glasses, Adlens donates a pair for distribution in Rwanda.
The Lennon and Hemisphere styles look goofy because the lenses are perfect circles, like half dollars, which isn't a design that will suit many faces. (They're available in a wide range of frame colors and lens tints.)
Furthermore, the adjustment knobs are big, ribbed and absurd looking, sticking out beyond the frames. Once you've dialed up the perfect focus, you can snap off the knobs, but then the glasses are no longer adjustable. You've locked in that "prescription" forever.
You can leave the knobs on, so that you can dial up different focal powers at different times. That's fine if you don't care what you look like (at home in bed, say), but you wouldn't want to wear them in public like that.
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