LOS ANGELES — Head-mounted computer displays, such as Google's Glass project, may sound fun and exciting. But how is such a device going to fit for people who wear glasses?
One research group's proposed technology may help, altering the images on a device screen so they're clearer for people with nearsightedness, farsightedness, cataracts and other eye conditions — even when they're not wearing glasses. Such a device could go into watches to wear during workouts — when many people don't like to wear glasses — or in car dashboards for people who would normally wear reading glasses, said Vitor Pamplona, a computer scientist and co-founder of EyeNetra, an eye care technology company. Pamplona presented his group's research yesterday (Aug. 8) here at SIGGRAPH, a conference on interactive technologies hosted by the Association for Computing Machinery.
When holding a smartphone or another device at a natural distance, nearsighted people can't see the screen clearly because their eyes focus at a point in the air too near, in front of where the phone's screen actually is. Meanwhile, farsighted people's eyes naturally focus at a point farther away than the phone and can't focus closely enough to see the screen. [ New Glasses Let Wearers Adjust Their Own Specs ]
To make up for these problems, Pamplona's program takes people's eyeglass prescriptions and finds where in the air their eyes focus without corrective lenses. The program then projects images at that point, so people can see them. "It's kind of this virtual pixel in space," Pamplona said. He also called the technology "a hologram for the visually impaired."
The program helps those with cataracts by measuring which light rays a person's cataracts interfere with, then blocking those rays from entering the eye. During his presentation, Pamplona showed a simulation of how a Snoopy cartoon would look to someone with cataracts, then showed the corrections his program made. The corrected Snoopy wasn't as crisp as the original — what a person with healthy eyes would see — but it was clearer and recognizable.
With this system, the device doesn't have to be calibrated for just one person, Pamplona said. Instead, different people could create accounts with their saved prescription information. To activate the image-adjusting program, they would log in to their own accounts. "You can share hardware with many people and all of them would get corrected for what they have," he said.
The technology is still in the early stages of research. For one thing, it can only calibrate to a set distance from a person's eyes — for instance, 18 inches from a person's eyes for a cellphone. Once the user moves the phone closer or further away, the effect no longer works.
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