A team of scientists at the University of California are developing a new type of screen technology, which could correct vision problems without the need for the viewer to wear glasses. The research is still in the early stages, but an article published by the MIT Technology Review gives us a rundown on how the tech will work.
A plastic screen with thousands of tiny holes has been placed over an iPod Touch, on which special software adjusts the amount of light shown by each pixel. This means the device controls how light reaches your eyes, so it can artificially recreate a sharp image. It’s called a Light Field Display, and it’s best to think of it like a pair of glasses in reverse, because it understands how our eyes will try and distort what’s shown on the screen, and adjusts the picture to suit. To effectively test the theory, a Canon DSLR camera was setup to simulate someone with a range of common vision problems.
It’s not just glasses wearers who will benefit from this new approach, but also those who can’t wear them due to more serious problems. However, there are still a few problems which need to be solved before the project can move forward. Of course, the screen needs to be tuned to the viewer’s eyes, and more importantly, their focal length. Sit too close or too far away, and it may not work effectively. We can see Amazon Fire Phone-style eye-tracking tech being used to solve this, but apparently, we tend to move around naturally to bring images into focus too.
The individual nature of the screen makes it a problem for multiple viewers, but scientists on the project say this could be cured by using a very high pixel density screen. A figure around twice that of the iPod Touch – that’s approximately 650 pixels per inch – could do the job, but this is beyond what we’re seeing on even the best smartphones (the LG G3 has 538ppi, for example) at the moment.
The team will present their research paper at a science exhibition in Canada during August. The project is exciting, but we’re still a few years away from seeing a working prototype that could free us from our specs.