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“To boldly go…” Electronic Spectacles 9-25-2011

Crazy, we have now entered an era where even your Rx eyeglasses have to be “charged up” in order to use them (cue the Star Trek music).  This year PixelOptics launched their emPower! product that uses liquid crystals in your eyeglass lenses coupled with the same “slide on” technology you use to unlock your handheld device.  Combined they create a change in the lens power both in automatic mode, when you tip your head to read or manual mode, when you choose to “turn it on.”  Sounds like something Geordi La Forge would wear, right?

I, like all Opticians and any true sci-fi fan was naturally intrigued by the nature of this product and set out to understand it and to determine how my clients might best use this product.  PixelOptics partnered with Aspex Eyewear to create electronic frames that could deliver the impulse to the liquid crystal lenses once mounted in the frame.  The whole product can be used for a day or so and then needs to be set on a charger (like your cell phone does) in order to be fully charged and ready for wear the next day (the frames house the electronic module and battery).

Excited to see this “Next Generation” of eye wear in action I lined up at their booth at International Vision Expo East in NYC this past Spring.  Wow!  With the slide of my finger across the temple of the glasses I was able to “turn on” my reading power in the lens.  However, I was completely deflated to find that the room felt distorted even though the top portion of the lens was supposed to be plano (without power) and my vision felt really disturbed for several moments after taking them off.  At a $1200 starting price tag per set I expected something with much better overall optical performance for my clients.  Or barring that, something that would make me feel like I could open a can of green beans using only my eyes.

The technology is awesome.  The concept, amazing.  However, the end result is far from the superior optical quality I have come to expect and demand from Rx lenses.  I have no doubt that someday soon the optical world will be able to deliver this type of product in a near flawless way.  Vision Expo East 2012 is just half a year away.  I’m still cheering for PixelOptics born out of my home state of VA, to rock this out.  But, until I am convinced that liquid crystal lens products are cleaner in their optical performance and acuity delivery for long term wear, this optician will continue cheering from the bleachers in her not so sci-fi, digital, free form, high definition lenses.  Superb vision accomplished, no battery required.

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