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Smart Glasses Promise to Make Reading Easier

Frames with sensing chips were a hit at the Consumer Electronics Show

A woman reads a book outside in a red chair

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The device consists of eyeglass frames fitted with regular prescription progressive bifocal lenses.

If you’re an older American, you likely have presbyopia, an age-related condition that affects many people over 50 and that prevents the eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. And those with eyeglasses may know that annoying feeling of continually having to move your head to adjust the angle of your gaze to read a book or the fine print on a computer or phone screen.

But now a new wearable piece of technology promises to help people read while giving their necks a rest.

Dynafocals, developed by Dallas area-based PH Technical Labs, was among the winners of the 2018 Innovation Awards at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

As the company's cofounder and CEO, Shariq Hamid, explains, the device consists of eyeglass frames fitted with regular prescription progressive bifocal lenses. A sensing chip built into the frames detects the distance to a book, screen or other object and then communicates with the glasses’ nose pads. They then subtly inflate and adjust a few millimeters, just enough to lift the lens to the proper angle for the wearer to see more clearly.

“You don’t have to look at the bottom,” Hamid says. “You can keep your eyes at the same level, and your glasses adjust.”

Hamid said that he and PH Technical Labs' chief technology officer, Ram Pattikonda, started working to make life easier for nearsighted people when they reached their 40s and started experiencing the condition themselves. “Looking at the phone all day long, we felt that we needed a solution,” he said.

They initially considered creating eyeglasses with smart lenses that would adjust to the distance but decided that such a device would be too bulky and conspicuous. “Then we thought, ‘What about moving the lenses?’ ” Hamid recalls.

The company has applied for a patent and is planning to market Dynafocals later this year, probably for around $150.

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