If you wear glasses, you’ll know a few truths that other mortals do not. For one thing, it’s easier than you think to lose or misplace your set. For another, it’s a real pain having to visit the optician every year to have your eyes checked for changes.
These new Adlens Hemisphere glasses may help with both of those situations. These new eyeglasses, which have been under development since 2005, feature a liquid lens structure which let you dial in your optimal prescription with the turn of a dial. Prescription vision in an instant, they call it, and from our tests it certainly does work well within certain constraints.
Adlens are different from other similar technologies for two reasons. The tech is the first to be offered in a range of products, including tinted sunglasses and also they are the only variable focus glasses with such a wide range of powers…from -4.5 up to +3.5 diopters. They will not however, cope with acute astigmatism, but since only around 25% of the population is thought to be affected by severe astigmatism, this is a limitation that may not affect most people.
See our short hands on video test below to see how they work in practice.
The Rwanda Connection
The technology was originally developed to provide vision correction eyewear to the developing world, and as part of the Vision for a Nation program in Rwanda, Africa. There are over 10 million people in Rwanda and only 14 eye care professionals, which means that eye glasses are almost non existent among the population, especially outside the main cities. In order to combat the problem of over 1 million people who need vision correction, the country’s Ministry of Health has teamed up with Adlens to train nurses in the 430 rural health centers to test and dispense variable focus glasses as needed.
With over 57% of Rwandans living below the poverty line, accessibility to these eye tests and glasses will be provided as a subsidized free service for a significant proportion of the citizens, while those who can afford will pay around $1 a pair, with the funds raised being put back into the country’s general health program. According to Dr Graeme E. Mackenzie, Director of Industry Affairs at Adlens, the Rwandan government immediately understood how a simplified vision correction program based around the company’s variable focus products could help them move eyecare out into rural areas at a reasonable cost.
“Each of the 430 rural health centers across the country supports ten nurses, of which four will now be trained in administering and managing the eyecare program, including testing and dispensing glasses,” he explains, “The Rwandan health system is not free, but it is heavily subsidized by the government, and this program means they can make maximum use of their limited budget and still deliver the coverage they need.”
The fluid injection technology invented by the company uses fluid stored in the small white dials on the arms of the glasses to adjust an elastic membrane in a chamber in the lens frame. When fluid is injected the membrane bows outwards, when the pressure is reduced the membrane bows inwards to change the power of the lens.
Once the desired prescription is set, the user can unclip the reservoir dial and lock in the focal lengths. If the glasses are going to be used for differing purposes (e.g. reading and long distance) or shared between family members, then the dials can be retained on the glasses for further ongoing adjustments as needed.
You’re probably not going to be attending any dinner parties with them like this of course, unless you enjoy answering questions about your peculiar choice in eyewear. The glasses are robust and tested for all relevant safety requirements, and the polycarbonate lenses are scratch and impact resistant. The company has in fact just this week won the prestigious Edison Award 2013 for innovation and social impact.
The Best is Yet to Come?
As well as outlining the current liquid injection technology, the company’s website also teases information of an upcoming ‘fluid compression’ technology it is working on. This, as yet unnamed tech, is due to be released in the US in October of this year, and involves fluid filled lenses which don’t have to be round. Apparently this is a first for this type of technology, and means that more stylish frames can be introduced into the range.
But the really astonishing thing about these new glasses is the fact that they may just make all varifocal and bifocal lenses instantly obsolete, by delivering eyewear which can be used for both long distance vision and close up reading across the whole surface of the lens!. Dr Mackenzie gave us precious few details of how this miracle might be achieved, except to say that the company already has working samples in its labs.
“With conventional varifocal lenses people have to learn a new behavior in order to take advantage of the lens features,” he explains, “So they learn to tilt their head or adjust their reading angle in order to optimize their vision for each circumstance. With our new next generation glasses, you will be able to see perfectly well at any angle and distance, using them the same way as you would with fixed focal lenses.”
If this new technology works as well as the good doctor suggests, it could literally turn the vision care world on its head. These are not DIY lenses, by the way, they’re high end prescription glasses which need to be sent away for production, as with current prescription eyewear. But the idea of only needing one pair of glasses for both long and short distance vision is something that could catch on like wildfire, especially with our ageing population of baby boomers and beyond.
Adlens Hemisphere Glasses: £79.99
Adlense Hemisphere Glasses: $79.99