As ebooks start to replace hardbacks and newspapers shift online, most of the reading we do tends to be from a screen. With this new reality creeping in, a couple of scientists at UC Berkeley and MIT are realising that we might be in need of an upgrade from reading glasses.
During his research on optometry, UC Berkeley Professor Brian Barsky realised that instead of focusing on how we take in an image, we could instead look at how an image is displayed. And he has since been working on developing a vision-correcting screen that distorts itself according to the viewer’s vision.
The technology is powered by complicated software and algorithms that change the light that a screen emits to distort the image a user sees. Barsky compares it with someone who is wearing sunglasses and struggling to see a smartphone screen. Instead of taking off the sunglasses, the person could just up the brightness on the screen.
Similarly, this new technology would alter the image (factoring in more than just brightness) so that the viewer would not need to put on a pair of glasses.
The back-end technology is paired with a physical screen that attaches to a device and helps transmit a specific image. The screen has tiny pinholes that help direct the light in different directions. Combined with the software, it distorts the device’s images so that the user perceives it properly.
So instead of having to put on your reading glasses when whipping out your Kindle, the screen would automatically be set to your prescription, letting you see the words clearly.
The technology also has major implications for people with more-complex vision problems. For instance, some people with what is called “spherical aberrations” have irregularly shaped corneas and cannot solve their vision problems with glasses or contact lenses. Their only current option is getting a cornea transplant, but Barsky’s technology could provide a new solution.
“I am hopeful that this research may have the potential to help people who currently struggle to see displays,” Barsky told Business Insider. “Considering how ubiquitous displays are now in our society, not being able to see a screen can be an impediment to holding down a job.”
To create a prototype of the screen, Barsky and his UC Berkeley colleagues teamed up with MIT researchers Gordon Wetzstein and Ramesh Raskar. The design is still in its early stages, but it could feasibly become a marketable screen that would attach to devices like tablets, phones, and computers.
“We’re not developing a product; rather, we figure out the mathematics and algorithms and try to push the frontiers of science,” Barsky said. “We hope that this research will help other scientists and people around the world. It would seem feasible [to bring this to the market], and I am not aware of any major hurdles if people really wanted to do it.”
Barsky’s team is presenting the display prototype on Aug. 12 at the International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Vancouver, Canada.
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