Electricity can make crystals and other materials expand or contract. This is called the piezoelectric effect. I was thinking of that while discussing an idea for “software defined corrective lenses” with J. Neil Schulman recently, and he thought it was worth looking into.
Neil googled terms such as “programmable eyeglasses” and came up with futurist forecasts of smart wearables and some really-for-real research on the subject by Georgia Tech and the University of Arizona. I found a piezo patent for adjustable lenses by Christoph Dobrusskin, an inventor for the Philips Electronics division in the Netherlands.
Under the category of self-reliance and health, I predict that ultimately, eyeglasses will get smart enough to optimally adjust to a wearer without an optometrist middleman, perhaps even containing enough expert knowledge in its memory to diagnose conditions better than most opthamologists. Given a friend’s recent bad experience, that might not be so difficult. Equally smart contacts and permanent implants should arrive shortly thereafter. RepRap or its future equivalent might be able to create open sourced versions of these smart lenses down the road, er I mean, garden path.
According to this Roanoke Times story, the patent holder for the Georgia Tech/Univ of Arizona research into dynamic electric autofocus eyeglass lenses, Pixel Optics, is in production for “lines free” bifocals (actually multi-focals including far-intermediate and intermediate in addition to near and far). These would be ground to prescription similar to traditional lenses, but without the visible line. Thus, these atLast! lenses won’t make wearers look old and stodgy.
The dynamic-electric technology being developed at Pixel Optics is on its way too, if they can stay in business against the big boys. The patent protection seems very secure, but according to that Roanoke Times story:
“. . .those competitors might respond to atLast by buying or licensing the lens’ technologies, by bad-mouthing its performance or by developing a similar product.”
Or corporate fascism can totally collapse forever and we can rebuild a just society on the ruins of the old fallen barbarism. Oops, there’s my anarchy again.