Virginia-based PixelOptics takes that notion quite literally. It produces emPower or what it says are the world's first "electronic corrective eyeglasses" capable of replacing conventional progressive lenses and bifocals.
Hidden in the frames of the otherwise normal-looking glasses, are a microchip, micro-accelerometer and miniature batteries. Each lens has a transparent LCD layer that can electronically change its molecular structure, changing the focus only as needed. If you tilt your head down say to read a book or peek at an object up close, the accelerometer automatically detects the motion, sending a signal to the LCD that alters how light is refracted, change the prescription quietly and in, well, a blink of the eye. You can also put the glasses in manual mode.
I briefly donned the glasses to sample the effect, which worked, but of course I was not wearing a pair that matched my actual prescription.
So why would you choose these glasses compared to conventional progressive lenses? One answer: With ordinary progressives, you might be lying on a couch or bed and tilting your head up to watch TV, which would otherwise be a challenge if you're peering out of that portion of the lens that isn't meant for distance viewing. With emPower, you'd only summon a lens optimized for reading or closeups when you needed to.
PixelOptics has been teaming up with Panasonic Healthcare in Japan for about three years. A pair of glasses based on its technology will be available in the southeastern U.S. in March, the company says, for about $1,200 at retail or about a 30% premium compared with regular glasses. The price includes the cradle that charges the glasses up.