Screens that correct your vision (glasses not required)

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A prototype of TEDxBeaconStreet speaker Gordon Wetzstein’s vision-correcting display. (Photo: Gordon Wetzstein)

Gordon Wetzstein designs the next generation of device screens. At TEDxBeaconStreet, the former MIT Media Lab Research Scientist detailed how he and a team of researchers in the lab’s Camera Culture Group created reactive device screens that correct your vision without the use of glasses or contact lenses.

The screens work like this, Wetzstein explains: A user clips a piece of plastic equipped with a printed pinhole mask onto their device, and a program working from an algorithm finely tuned to the user’s prescription manipulates the digital display so that — when viewed through the pinhole filter — the device’s screen looks crystal clear to the user’s naked eye, without the use of any other assistive devices, like glasses or contact lenses.

The pinhole screen for a vision-correcting display.

The pinhole screen for a vision-correcting display.

Says MIT: “A vision defect is a mismatch between the eye’s focal distance — the range at which it can actually bring objects into focus — and the distance of the object it’s trying to focus on. Essentially, the new display simulates an image at the correct focal distance — somewhere between the display and the viewer’s eye.”

From MIT News's demo of the vision-correcting displays (Video: Melanie Gonick, MIT News, Gordon Wetzstein)

From MIT News’s demo of the vision-correcting displays (Video: Melanie Gonick, MIT News, Gordon Wetzstein)

This technology could be used to help those who have no trouble seeing far distances, but need glasses to read their text messages; or those who only wear glasses to start a new eBook, but not to run; or those who can read a laptop screen easily, but have trouble making out the display of a digital watch. But the technology’s greatest potential, says Wetzstein, is its potential to help those who do not not have regular access to healthcare, but do have access to mobile technology.

Around two billion people in the world have vision issues, he says, and around 600,000 of those people live without vision-correcting devices. At the same time, there are around six billion active cell phone subscriptions in the world. He hopes that vision-correcting screens can be used to help correct vision aberrations for those who have access to mobile devices, but not to sophisticated healthcare. It’s possible, writes Scientific American, that the team could develop a version of the technology fit with a slider that allows it to be manually focused and work without an inputted prescription.

Watch Wetzstein’s whole talk below:

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