22nd October 2018
Hi-tech glasses change focus at the touch of a button
Japanese company Mitsui Chemicals has developed next-generation eyewear that can change focus from far to near and back again, simply by touching a button in the frame.
Recent years have been marked by rising interest and development in wearable technology, including the field of eyewear. Tokyo-based Mitsui Chemicals has now created next-generation eyewear that harnesses the power of electricity to provide more comfortable vision. Using high refractive materials in combination with liquid crystal lens technology, the company has made "TouchFocus" – described as "one touch, e-focus glasses" for long and short vision.
At first glance, TouchFocus appears to be simply a pair of stylish glasses, but hidden inside the frame is a tiny electric circuit. By pressing a sensor installed in the side frame, the liquid crystal is activated to change focus from distance to close range (and vice versa) almost instantly. The "reading zone" can be toggled on and off as needed, eliminating the need to switch between pairs of glasses or crane one's neck at an uncomfortable angle – allowing for wide and clear vision with a comfortable wearing posture. The product is powered by a long-lasting, easily chargeable battery, weighs almost the same as a standard pair of glasses and features a water-resistant coating.
Designed by Thomas Overthun, Executive Director from IDEO, these glasses come in a variety of styles and colours, which are being expanded soon to include a new series of thin and lightweight titanium frames. Earlier this month, TouchFocus won the "Good Design Award 2018". With a suggested retail price of ¥270,000 ($2,400), they are likely to remain a somewhat luxury item for now – but this technology provides an interesting glimpse of the future possibilities for eyewear, when such devices may become cheaper and more widespread.
The number of people with visual problems is forecast to grow rapidly between now and 2050, creating huge demand for lenses. In the years ahead, perhaps a whole raft of technologies could be embedded into glasses, such as cameras and Wi-Fi connections. With further miniaturisation, contact lenses might include these features. Ultimately, even the eye itself could incorporate them as we enter the age of transhumanism.
Since the launch of TouchFocus in February, its retail presence has grown to 18 stores. This month, the number and regional coverage is further expanding to include the areas of Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu. By 2019, Mitsui Chemicals aims to have TouchFocus available at 100 retail locations nationwide and a presence in Asian, European and North American markets, with a goal of 50,000 pairs sold by 2022.
"Rather than forcing the wearer to adapt to their glasses, with TouchFocus the wearer can control their vision as needed – allowing wearers to stay fully engaged during the important moments of life," the company states on its website. "Regardless of our age, we all want to live life looking forward. However, all of us will face worsening eyesight as we age. With conventional progressive glasses, there is an unstated assumption that one will not be able to see as naturally and comfortably as before. TouchFocus challenges this assumption – providing a new answer to what vision care can be."
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