Israeli startup brings hi-tech to reading glasses

DeepOptics' 32°N adaptive focus sunglasses.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

32°N sunglasses use a proprietary pixelated liquid crystals technology which enables the swift transition, developed over the course of ten years by DeepOptics.

Reading glasses or sunglasses? For many of the estimated 1.8 billion people in the world with presbyopia, the inability to focus on close objects, reading requires putting on a special pair of glasses and, if you are wearing sunglasses or other eyewear, taking them off to switch.
For some people, checking your phone or receiving messages while strolling outside on a sunny day may mean switching glasses every 12 minutes.
Petah Tikva-based DeepOptics has an easier solution: its 32°N technology, which it says provides the world’s first adaptive-focus sunglasses.
With a swipe of the finger along the temple of the lens frame, the wearer can make the glasses switch between “scenic mode” and “reading mode,” with different vision settings that are set via smartphone app.
The 32°N sunglasses use a proprietary pixelated liquid crystals technology that enables the swift transition. It was developed over the course of 10 years by the company.
DeepOptics launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign on Tuesday, allowing consumers to preorder the sunglasses for the first time.
“Tunable lenses have been the holy grail of the glasses industry for a long time,” DeepOptics CEO and co-founder Yariv Haddad said at the company’s office. “Every glasses company would have loved to have the ability to offer customers above age 45 glasses that can change their focus.
“There are bifocal and multifocal lenses, but those require you to look through different parts of the lens for different purposes. This is the first step in a very big journey of bringing dynamics into the vision-correction industry, and we have a lot of products in our road map.”
Future versions will offer the option for prescription lenses that can adapt for reading at close distances, he said.
Haddad handed me a lens to view up close and said: “What you’re holding is actually two thin glasses, and between them is the liquid crystal. That crystal has several million pixels, and our technology allows us to send different electric voltages to each pixel to influence the refractive index of the pixel. That allows us to dynamically control and change each pixel very quickly.”
Before I tried on a pair of glasses for a live demo, Haddad and another worker set up a profile for me on the app, which automatically measured the distance between my pupils and helped me fine-tune the level of adjustment I would need. Once that was set up, I was given a book to read.
As it happens, my youthful eyes were still nimble enough that I didn’t notice a difference in reading comfort with the lenses. (“But wait five years,” Haddad warned.) So instead, I was given a tiny computer chip and told to focus on a bit of text on it that I could barely see. Then we adjusted the glasses to a setting where I could read the text comfortably.
“Now, all you need to do is slide your finger across the temple to change the prescription,” Haddad said.
I spent the next few minutes going back and forth, switching between regular and close vision with a quick flick. With each direction change, the glasses just needed a second or two to adjust. The glass was as transparent as any lens I have used, with no indication that I was actually looking through millions of pixels.
The frame was stylish but a bit thick, “enough to hold all this technology while keeping it wearable,” Haddad said.
A full charge of the battery lasts about a day, but the sunglasses can be used normally even if they are out of electricity.
Haddad said he expects the glasses to sell at a retail price of $449, but the first people to pledge to the Kickstarter account can get them for $299, with delivery estimated for April 2022.
The company, which was founded in 2011 and has 15 employees, is well-positioned for growth once it is ready for full production. The company is backed by Essilor, a French optics company that is considered the largest glasses maker in the world, as well as Samsung Ventures, and is geared up for production once everything is in place.
There are two or three start-ups in the world that are developing similar technology, but theirs are more limited and less developed, Haddad said.
“We are excited to be at the head of this field working to improve quality of life for so many people, and we have a lot more ahead,” he said.

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