In terms of corrective vision technology, nothing has ever quite
matched the invention of the eyeglasses way back in the thirteenth
century when it comes to helping people deal with eyesight
Researchers at MIT Media Media Lab and Berkeley University are
hoping that their latest development may help to change this. They
have managed to create display technology that automatically corrects vision defects
with no need for glasses or contact lenses. Effectively what it
does is correct the human eye by laying a glasses-like lens over a
display, such as a mobile phone.
The research team started by building a low-cost printed
transparent prototype that can be clipped straight onto an existing
phone. The display is covered in an array of pinholes that
manipulate the on-screen image for a human observer according to a
software algorithm, which draws its formula from an optician’s
The display is derived from the same technology used to create
glasses-free 3D screens. Rather than project different images into
a viewer’s left and right eyes however, the vision-correcting
display will deliver varying images to different areas of the
viewer’s pupil. Thus, the image is displayed at the correct focal
distance — something even a minor vision defect can easily
Also using technology that was built for 3D displays, the
researchers have managed to minimise the loss of image resolution.
This involved adapting the algorithm so that it was able to use
individual pixels from the screen to simultaneously project
different viewing angles.
Another problem the team had to overcome was loss of light. In
order to stop the pinhole layer blocking the display from emitting
around half of its light, the researchers found that by using two
parallel LCDs they could mask perspectives and allow plenty of
light to still pass through.
So far the team has found that the display can successfully
correct for a range of conditions that are difficult to correct
with glasses. These include myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia
(far-sightedness), astigmatism (blurred vision due to an inability
to focus) and higher order aura aberrations.
It’s possible that in future the technology could simply be
integrated into phones, laptops, tablets, ebook readers or in-car
displays, rather than sitting on top of them. Far-sighted people
who would usually need glasses for reading could use the technology
built into their ebook reader screen, or wouldn’t need to put on
glasses while driving in order to see the GPS or speedometer. “It
will not be able to help you see the rest of the world more
sharply, but today, we spend a huge portion of our time interacting
with the digital world,” points out the display’s co-creator Gordon
Wetzstein of his creation.
The technology could make a particularly strong impact in
developing nations where poor access to health infrastructure means
that prescription lenses are not cheap or easy to come by. This can
sometimes lead to illiteracy and unemployment — problems the
researchers are hoping the technology might be able to overcome.
piece of low-cost technology that diagnoses vision defects –
which just happens to have been developed by the same Media Lab
group — a smartphone equipped with the display could also be used
to determine the prescription and program the algorithm
The details of the display have been outlined in a paper that is
due to be presented in August at the Siggraph graphics