Scholarly monks of the middle ages, specifically those of the 13th century, used the earliest variants of eyewear. As monks spread the visual aid, they took on many forms. The high-in-demand resource aided the visual impaired for centuries, leading to the development of the bifocal lens in 1784 by Benjamin Franklin. From 1801-1900 — and from the help of technology — the presentation and optometric architecture of eyewear underwent moderate refurbishment, and began being mass-produced to become a universal tool in correcting vision impairments for the masses. Today, 184 million Americans — or 64% of our country’s population — sports prescription eyewear. Knowing this, and without irony, the only question remaining is: what will the eyeglass’s future look like?
As previously mentioned, technology advanced the model of the eyeglass in the 19th century, and it’s base concept is still lingering in frames produced today, architecturally speaking. When comparing the vision technology we have today to that of the latter, we reap massive benefits, and scientists have made massive progression in the given time span.
Some benefits include technologies to filter wavelengths, reduce glare and sunlight, and better lens material quality — two visual advantages, one luxury.
Let’s begin with an analysis of the visual advantages seen through the application of technology in eyewear. Color-enhancing engineering assists in modifying the wavelength of light to make colors clearer for those with red-green color deficiencies/color-blindness. Almost self-explanatory, eyeglasses equipped with blue light blocking technologies filter out blue lights from digital screens that contribute to eye strain and may interfere with your sleep cycle.
The development and use of polarized lenses provide the wearer with an opportunity to optimize their vision, reducing glare from screens and other reflective surfaces to reduce eye fatigue. Similar in performance to polarized lenses, light-adaptive lenses automatically calibrate their tint to the wearer’s current light conditions. This technology, along with several others, can improve the vision and lessen distractions from those impacted by astigmatism, near- and farsightedness.
Although the aforementioned recent technologies are still astonishing and captivating new eyes, science already has plans to inch eyewear even closer to perfection. The future of eyewear consists of nano-drops, smart glasses, and brain implants acting as visual aids. As a result, eye drops could replace contacts, eyewear could replace a commodious assortment of wearable and mobile tech, and brain implants have the potential to restore sight to the blind.
To further explain, a 3-step nano-drop system is in development to measure light refraction through the use of a mobile application. The eyedrop user’s optical pattern is measured by a laser device, and case-by-case, specific, nano drops are used to alter the trajectory of light passing through the cornea. In the years to come, nano drops could be the new contacts.
Smart glasses — not to be mistaken for favouring the likeliness of the Google Glass — will have technology equipped with sensors, bone conduction speakers, and gesture controls. Additionally, wearers of smart glasses will be able to answer phone calls using hands-free technology, listen to music wirelessly, and track their activity in FitBit-esque fashion. Interestingly enough, some smart glasses will include cameras and mini displays. Futuristically speaking; by integrating this technology, smart glasses could replace the need or desire for wireless earbuds to hear phone calls on, smartwatches to track the activity on, and portable music players to cater to the troglodytes reading.
The Visual Cortical System (VCS) is an interesting dissection, as it is building a reputation around the possibility of restoring sight to those without. This will work by implanting a stimulation device attached to a camera into the brain to create an artificial vision through the use of glasses. The VCS will convert images to electrical impulses in the user’s brain. More interestingly, researches are creating auto-focusing smart glasses. Researches around the world are searching for ways to improve the technology of glasses.