Most people spend about 70 percent of their day viewing items at least an arm’s length away or farther. For people with bifocal or progressive lenses in their glasses, that can make things a bit more difficult. Blurriness that is seen when looking down through the part of the lens designed for close up reading can make basic head movement and even walking difficult.
That is why Virginia-based PixelOptics creator and chief visionary officer Ronald Blum patented emPower electronic eyewear. The eyewear allows the wearer to electronically turn on and off the lens for close-up vision like reading.
Some Milwaukee-area vision centers, including six Aurora Healthcare Vision Centers throughout southeastern Wisconsin, Signature Eye Care in Brookfield, Eye Site Vision Center in New Berlin, Neo Vision Eye Care in Pewaukee, Thomas Marsh Eye Care and Associates in Oconomowoc and Eyeglass Gallery in Elkhorn have the emPower eyewear in stock.
“We’ve been offering the glasses since January,” said Brenda Bray, optical supervisor at Aurora’s Good Hope Road and Port Washington clinics. “We’re always trying to be on top of the latest technologies. We know everything is going to continue to advance and get better. People are looking for ways to improve their experience with progressive lenses, to get rid of the distortion they sometimes experience. This technology is incredible.”
“Historically patients were forced to compromise and adjust,” said Laura Prezell, area sales manager for PixelOptics. “They were told they’d have to get used to simply pointing their nose at whatever they wanted to look at. That’s not the case with emPower lenses.”
Traditional bi-focal lenses split the lens into two sections. The top part for distance vision and the bottom part for anything within the 14 to 16 inch range, or reading, Prezell said.
“Progressive lenses take things one step further by adding a third mid-range vision lens,” she said. “In progressive lenses there is an hour glass shaped lens in the middle of the distance and close range vision.”
The mid-range, where most people consume the most of their vision, is the smallest part of most progressive lenses by design, Prezell said.
The emPower electronic eyewear uses liquid crystal inside the lens and electronically activates it in order to change their position, Prezell said.
“Liquid crystal is the same material that’s found inside calculators, laptops and cell phones,” she said. “By making the lenses electronic we’re able to control the liquid crystals and turn on and off the close up reading portion of the lens.”
The distance portion of the lens is always there at the top, the mid-range vision lens is on the bottom and the reading portion can be turned on and off automatically or by swiping the temple arm of the glasses, she said.
“There are two modes of operation,” Prezell said. “The reading portion of the lens can be manually turned on and off by swiping the side of the glasses or they can be turned on to automatically turn on and off with the tilt of your head.”
The emPower eyewear is also equipped with an accelerometer, technology that is also used in mobile phones and tablets to switch the landscape of the screen depending on which way the device is turned.
“The automatic mode automatically detects when you tip your head down to read something and turns on the reading lens. When you lift your head back up the midrange lens comes back,” she said. “It’s all about lifestyle, the changes can be made almost instantaneously, both modes come standard in order to allow individual people to select what mode is best for them.”
The glasses come with a custom charger that, depending on use, can be used every two to three days.
“The glasses typically last about two days with an overnight charge,” Prezell said. “There are LED light indicators on the frame to let you know you are receiving the full charge and that will also let you know how much battery life you have once the glasses are off the charger.”
Aurora offers the emPower electronic eyewear for $1,250 a pair. That price includes frame, prescription lightweight lenses, an antireflective coating and the charger for the glasses, Bray said.
“For a good pair of progressives people will pay almost as much as that,” she said. “This is definitely one of the best progressives on the market. There’s a wider field of vision so there is automatically less distortion off to the side.”
The glasses come with a full year warranty in most situations and users can also get the battery replaced instead of purchasing a new pair.