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Stanford Team Develops ‘Autofocal’ Lenses to Tackle Vision Correction

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Published on : Jul 04, 2019

Presbyopia is one of the most commonly occurring vision disorders among humans. Most of the time, this disorder sets in at the age of 45. It occurs due to the fact the lenses in our eyes lose their elasticity, which dilutes the ability to focus on nearby objects. Some overcome this problem by wearing reading glasses, while others need to wear progressive lenses.

To tackle this problem more efficiently, Gordon Wetzstein, an electrical engineer at Stanford University, has developed a pair of ‘autofocal’ lenses. Currently, the prototype looks similar to a virtual reality goggle. However, he and his team are working towards streamlining the upcoming versions.

The main motive of these ‘autofocal’ glasses is to eliminate a key problem with progressive lenses – the need to align the head of the wearer to focus on the object. For instance, while driving a car, the driver wearing progressive lenses finds is difficult to switch lanes using the side mirror. This is because these lenses offer very little peripheral vision. Additionally, studies have shown that people wearing progressive lenses are at a greater risk of falling and thus injuring themselves.

More Details about the Autofocal Lenses

The new prototype works very much like the normal eye lens. It has fluid filled lenses that thin or bulge as per the changes in vision. The prototype also has eye-tracking sensors. These sensors triangulate where the wearer is looking and determine the accurate distance of the object. The team at Stanford worked on developing a software system, which harnesses the data from eye-tracking sensors. The compiled data allows the fluid-filled lenses to be in perfect and constant focus.

To validate their approach, the development team tested these autofocal prototypes on 56 subjects suffering from presbyopia. The test results showed that the autofocal lenses performed more efficiently at reading and other tasks. Wearers also preferred to use autofocal lenses than using progressive lenses.

The next challenge in front of the team is to downsize the technology. Wetzstein believes that they are still a few years away from perfection. However, he is convinced that autofocal lenses are the future of vision correction.