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Prototype ‘omnifocal’ lenses can auto-focus on whatever you’re looking at

For the old (or rather, more seasoned) among us, vision is often one of the first things to go. As years pass, the lenses of your eyeballs gradually begin to thicken and become less flexible. This hampers your ability focus on things that are close to your face — so eventually, your only options are to either get a pair of bifocals, or hold all your books and newspapers further away.

Israeli upstart Deep Optics thinks we can do better, though. The company is working on a set of concept lenses called “omnifocals,” which have the capability to change their power in real time in order to ensure that the wearer has the clearest vision possible for whatever they’re looking at.

It’s a interesting concept; while bifocals work admirably, there’s a “sweet spot” where you’ll have the clearest focus. Move your eye out of that area and you’re likely to find things a bit more blurry. Ask any wearer, and they’ll tell you that’s it’s biggest disadvantage.

Related: X-Ray vision developed by MIT researchers

That’s not a problem with this technology. Omnifocals work by filling the lens with a liquid crystal solution. Electric current then is sent through this liquid, which can change the power of the lens to improve vision where the wearer is looking. No more looking through the bottom of the lens or tilting your head just right to get the best view.

frameri glasses

How does Deep Optics’ technology know where you’re looking? Sensors in the glasses track the pupils, which is then sent to a processor built into the frame to deliver the necessary power adjustment. All of this happens in real-time, without the need for the wearer to do anything.

“The user doesn’t have to control it, doesn’t have to look through a specific area of the lens,” Deep Optics CEO and founder Yariv Haddad told the MIT Technology Review. “[They] just have to look through the glasses as they would with any glasses prior to that.”

That’s something bifocal wearers would love lens makers to focus on — no pun intended.

We’d recommend you temper your enthusiasm though, as there is still a long way to go before this technology becomes a reality. For now, all that exists is a working prototype, and a lot of work is left to be done in order to shrink the necessary components into the size of a standard pair of glasses. Other problems include accurately tracking the pupil, which is a major part of making the omnifocal so much better than its predecessor.

Haddad say those issues require at least two years of development to fix, but the glasses would still need to go through extensive user testing. This means an actual commercial version might not be available until the end of the decade — but chances are good that when that date comes around, you’ll need a pair of high-tech spectacles more than ever.