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You wear sunglasses, so why not screenglasses? We tried a pair for a week

Most of us are sold on the need for sunglasses, but what about protective eyewear for staring at screens all day? We happily wear UV filters, but give little thought to the impact of electric light. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest we should worry about the potentially damaging effects of blue light, in particular, as it can disrupt our sleep patterns.

Gauss glasses have special self-tinting lenses that are designed to protect your eyes throughout the day, no matter what your activity. They work as sunglasses when you’re in the sun, but they also filter out blue light from bulbs, computer screens, and smartphones when you’re indoors.

“Our goal was to create the perfect sunglasses for the digital age…”

German-based Gauss has smashed the Kickstarter target of $22,000, picking up almost ($200,000) worth of orders with 14 days left to run. We spoke to developer Jay Uhdinger to find out more, and tried out a pair of Gauss glasses for a week.

“Our goal was to create the perfect sunglasses for the digital age because it is simply easier for people to carry around one pair of glasses that they can use to protect their eyes while they are outside or when sitting in front of a computer or other digital device screen,” Uhdinger told Digital Trends.

“The idea came from my work as a virtual reality developer. I was struggling with headache and eye strain caused by sitting in front of screens for hours on end for years.”

To make the Gauss glasses, he partnered with Peter ‘Pit’ Marx, an optometrist and lens expert with three decades of experience.

The glasses have multiple layers of coating applied to them to build up their protective properties. They reflect blue light peaking at the damaging 400 to 440 nanometer wavelength, but allow other wavelengths to pass through, so there’s little impact on color vision. They also offer enhanced UV blocking in the 290 to 420 nanometer range. This light is invisible to us, but can do serious damage to our eyes.

“The glasses are aimed at digital professionals who enjoy minimalistic eyewear with the best that lens technology can offer today,” explained Uhdinger. “People who look a lot at screens and for whom technology and quality count more than fancy brand names with subpar product features.”

That describes me pretty well — the staring at screens part, anyway — so I’ve been wearing the glasses for the last week to try them out. They come in a nice plain carry case with a cloth. The frames are minimalist and crafted from ultra-lightweight titanium frames. Gauss is offering six differently shaped models right now. I got the ‘Jay’ model, a shape that reminds me of classic Aviator sunglasses.

They took a little getting used to, but they really are very light. I’d stop short of saying I forgot I was wearing them, but they certainly weren’t uncomfortable.  If you’re looking at a computer screen, you can immediately see a reduction in the blue light you’re taking in, everything has a soft yellowish tinge — like you’ve applied a nostalgia filter to your eyes. The harsh glare of any light source you look at is also significantly reduced, something that becomes most apparent when you step outside into the sun.

The self-tinting lenses can go from 10 percent to 75 percent opacity. As soon as you walk into the sun, they tint to compensate, working much like any decent pair of sunglasses, but coming indoors they adjust immediately to the new lighting level. There’s no disorientating darkness.

Compared to my last pair of glasses, worn for driving, the Gauss glasses stay remarkably clean and polish off easily. They also don’t steam up as much, which I later learned is probably because they have a superhydrophobic coating. They also have an EMI coating which makes the lenses anti-static.

There are a lot of extras here that people may reject when buying glasses because they want to have a budget for some nice frames. Sunglasses are still primarily fashion items, and few of us give thought to the technology inside.

“We just kept adding more features to the glasses and it ended up being much more than computer eyewear or sunglasses,” said Uhdinger “As long as we run Gauss, people will get high quality eyewear at fair prices. We want to enable people to get the best lens technology on the market at affordable prices.”

Gauss Glasses
Simon Hill / Digital Trends

The first run are selling fast, but you can still secure a pair for $130 ($119 euros) on Kickstarter, or two pairs for $217 (199 euros). The normal retail price will be $175 (159 euros). You can also opt for custom sizing for an additional $18 (17 euros), so the lenses are proportionally scaled to your head size. This could be worth considering, as the Gauss glasses I tried looked okay on me, but pretty huge on my wife.

It’s difficult to discern how the glasses have actually impacted on my eyes. They are clearly filtering out UV and blue light. You see a blue tinge in the lenses from certain angles, and it’s more pronounced when you look at a bright light source. (That’s the blue light being reflected.)

“We just kept adding more features to the glasses and it ended up being much more than computer eyewear or sunglasses.”

They feel just like sunglasses outdoors, but the effect indoors is much more subtle. I felt more comfortable wearing them, particularly working on the laptop later in the day or watching TV in bed, than I did without them. The benefit seemed more apparent when I took them off and was struck by how harsh the light looked.

“The awareness and need for computer eyewear is increasing and we believe in a few years from now, computer eyewear will be just as common as sunglasses today,” said Uhdinger.

The fact that Gauss glasses can serve as both makes them a tempting prospect. The next step for Gauss is to launch prescription glasses through their website in August or September.

“We are also working on some more outlandish ideas of what eyewear frames could be and a few more prototypes for glasses we want to bring to the market in the coming months,” Uhdinger revealed. “We are on a mission and we have more plans to bring amazing quality eyewear at fair prices to the market.”