Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I can see clearly now

While I've always been short-sighted, until not long ago it was always pretty easy for me to read books or magazines while wearing the same set of glasses that helped me see at great distances.

But over the past couple of years, it became apparent that I not only needed glasses to correct for myopia but also to assist with looking at things closer to hand.

To solve my dual myopic-hyperopic headache, I turned to my local optician who suggested that a pair of bifocals or varifocal lenses might do the trick. And it did. Thanks to her recommendation, I now sport a rather expensive pair of glasses with varifocals that enable me to focus my eyes onto both objects far and near.

As great as these varifocals are, however, I accept that they aren't for everyone. In fact, some people dislike them as they find it difficult to get used to which areas of the lens they have to look through!

One optics company -- Roanoke, Virginia-based PixelOptics -- has come up with a unique solution to the problem: an electronic set of glasses called emPower that has a layer of liquid crystals in each lens that can instantly create a near-focus zone, either when the user either touches a small panel on the side of the frames or in response to up and down movements of the head.

Under development for 12 years, the new system, which is protected by nearly 300 patents and patent applications pending around the world, looks to be yet another interesting option for those folks with optical issues like mine.

I'd like to think that there might be some use for this technology in the industrial marketplace, too, but I haven't quite figured out where that might be yet.

I can't, for example, envisage any system integrator actually manually swiping cameras fitted with such lenses to change their focal length while they might be inspecting parts at high speed in an industrial setting. Nor could I imagine that many engineers would build a system to move such a camera up and down to do the same -- an autofocus system would surely be a lot more effective!

Nevertheless, I'm keeping an open mind about the whole affair, because the imaging business is replete with individuals that can take ideas from one marketplace and put them to use in others.

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