Startup preps automatic-focus eye glasses

Startup preps automatic-focus eye glasses

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

The company has presented electronic spectacles at the Mido trade fair in Milan, with which, by pressing a button on the frame, the user can switch between near or distance vision.

Such glasses could be a replacement for glasses with bifocal or multifocal lenses and a boon to people with presbyopia, the normal age-related loss of near focusing that affects nearly all people older than 45.

The electronic adjustment of the lens operates across the entire surface of the lens and does so by including a thin layer of liquid crystal in foil. Changing the electric field across the crystal, changes the refractive index lens by up to +1.5 diopters, according to the Morrow Optics website.

It is also possible to create eyeglasses that track the user and adjust dynamically to the situation, although the company does not say how this would be done. One method would be to measure the distance between the inside edges of the pupils of the eye using camera technology. When they are furthest apart the subject is trying to focus at infinity and as the eyes turn inwards to focus at closer distances the inter-pupil distance reduces. However, this could also leave a requirement for calibration of such lenses to a particular user.

Morrow’s electronics is “low power” the company claims allowing for easy integration of the lenses in almost any frame. Such autofocal glasses are powered by a battery designed to last more than one week to charge up in one hour.

Sihto was founded in 2016 by Jelle De Smet and Paul Marchal, who met while they working at IMEC, the nanoelectronics research institute. De Smet serves as CTO and Marchal as CEO.

Initially Sihto received seed investment of €1.4 million (about $1.6 million) from Tokai Optics, Fidimec, QBIC, Arkiv NV and Sofi. To date the company has now received €10.4 million (about $11.8 million) from both European and American investors that include New Science Ventures, imec.Xpand, Tokai and PMV.

The technology rests on many years of development work by De Smet on tunable contact lenses. Sihto has opted to address the opportunity in eye glasses first but notes that the same technology could be used in glasses for augmented and virtual reality.

“Our approach is to integrate an active element, called a lens-in-foil in traditional optics.  It allows the wearer to adjust his view to each situation electronically,” said De Smet in a statement.

Morrow is looking for partners to commercialize its technology.

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