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PixelOptics Intros World's First Electronic, Self-Focusing Glasses

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CES 2011

LAS VEGAS—A Roanoke Virginia company may be set to revolutionize the eye-wear world with the first-ever self-adjusting pair of variable-focus lenses. Their EmPower glasses have see-through, built in LCD crystals that can be charged to actually change the focus strength of the lenses. This could provide relief for all those forced to wear fix-focus tri-, bi- and variable-focus lenses.

Virtually all long-time glasses wearers will eventually hear these words: You have presbyopia. It's not a fatal condition. Instead it's the answer to why you can no longer go from looking at the plane flying overhead to reading the written word or your smartphone screen without looking over your glasses. Older eyes can't focus that fast, so we usually have to adopt bi-focals, tri-focals or variable-focus lenses. These lenses offer two or more focal lengths within one lens, but they're fixed. In other words, you look through a certain part for distance viewing and another part for reading.

PixelOptics EmPower's technology allows one pair of lenses to be entirely normal focus and then, with the touch of a sensor in the glasses frame, switch to reading focus. The glasses, which do need to be charged overnight, look and feel no different than a standard pair of eyeglasses. We saw the technology in action, and the adjustment happens instantly.

Wearers can even set the change to happen automatically if they activate the tiny in-frame accelerometer (PixelOptic's reps say it's the World's smallest such sensor). With the sensor on, a tilt forward of the head to, say, look down to read something will activate the crystals and electronic focus technology.

PixelOptics plans to deliver the eyewear in April. Even though the lenses adjust electronically, the multiple focus levels still need to be set for each wearer. In other words, you'll still need a prescription. These lenses will accept all the standard eyewear extras, including anti-scratch lenses and polarization. Pricing has not been set, but they do expect Empower lenses to cost a 25%-to-30% premium over other variable focus eyewear.

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