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Move over, progressive lenses!
Exciting new ‘autofocals’ prototype can track eyes and focus automatically
SAN DIEGO, CALIF (July 23, 2019) - Engineers at Stanford University have created a prototype for 'autofocals' designed especially for people who would otherwise need progressive lenses. The new autofocus lenses are automatically controlled using eye-tracking technology and have the potential to correct nearsightedness better than traditional eyeglasses.
"This is great news for the one billion people with presbyopia, also known as nearsightedness,” says Sandy T. Feldman, Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego. “There’s still a long way to go, as the current prototype looks like virtual reality goggles, but hopefully a more streamlined model will become available in the future.”
Presbyopia is a vision defect that affects most people starting around age 45, as the lenses in the eyes lose the elasticity needed to focus on nearby objects. For some people, reading glasses are enough to overcome the difficulty; for many others, the only fix is vision correction surgery or wearing progressive lenses.
The prototype autofocals are intended to solve the biggest sticking point with traditional progressive lenses, which offer no peripheral focus and require the wearer to turn their head to clearly see things off to one side.
“Having to constantly shift your vision can make it difficult to navigate the world,” says Dr. Feldman. "People wearing progressive lenses have a higher risk of falling and injuring themselves.”
The new prototype works much like the lens of the eye, with fluid-filled lenses that expand and contract as the field of vision changes. It also includes eye-tracking sensors that triangulate where a person is looking and determine how far away things are. While the Stanford team did not invent these lenses or eye-trackers, they did develop the software system that uses the eye-tracking data to keep the lenses in focus.
The prototype was tested on 56 people with presbyopia, who reported that the autofocus lenses performed better and faster at reading and other tasks. Wearers also tended to prefer the autofocals over progressive lenses, bulk and weight aside.
“It may take researchers a few years to develop autofocals that are lightweight and stylish enough for regular use,” Dr. Feldman predicts. “But autofocals could very well be the future of non-surgical vision correction.”
About Sandy T. Feldman, MD
Sandy T. Feldman MD, Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center, is a world-renowned corneal expert who has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Clearview has been voted Best LASIK center by the San Diego Union Tribune (five times) and by CityBeat Magazine (three times). Dr. Feldman’s many awards include Top Doc San Diego; the Goldline Award, an honor granted to the top 10 laser eye care specialists in the U.S.; and the Silver Elite RealSelf Award. She has also been profiled in publications such as Forbes and Newsweek and makes frequent appearances as an expert commentator on TV talk shows and news programs. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the prestigious American College of Ophthalmic Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. More details at clearvieweyes.com.
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