Smart glasses adapt to all conditions

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 November, 2008, 12:00am

Can sunglasses really be intelligent? Can they have a mind of their own and adjust their powers on a whim? If Canadian optical manufacturer Brighten Optics' new generation of sunglasses is anything to go by, it would appear so.

E-shades, the world's first chip-controlled sunglasses, can sense light and automatically adjust the colour of the lenses in less than 0.1second to correspond to the light intensity, according to the company.They can also filter glare and irregular light reflection, eliminating all discomfort for the wearer irrespective of their environment and the activity they are engaged in - be it on the ski slopes, on the beach or driving.

The company has integrated liquid crystal panels and solar cells to create this new product. The liquid crystal materials are rod-like molecules whose orientation varies depending on the electric field they experience.

For example, when there is no electric field, the liquid crystal molecules align themselves in a pattern that rotates the polarisation of light, allowing light to be transmitted through the lens.

The application of an electric field across a liquid crystal material can, however, change the transmittance from clear to dark. Consequently, an applied electric field breaks down the rotation pattern and reduces the amount of light transmitted through the lenses, according to the company.

Powered by a small solar cell mounted within the frame, the percentage of light transmitted is controlled by modulating the electric field.

'The liquid crystal sunglasses work by measuring the light incident on the sunglasses and varying the transmittance of the two liquid crystal lenses accordingly.

They are effective in bright conditions ranging from indoor to direct sunlight, and respond quickly to changes in illumination,' said Benjamin Chen, president of Brighten Optics.

By responding in milliseconds, the glasses can block light as the surroundings become brighter, all the while maintaining a consistently comfortable light level for the eye.

'Its fast response rate, wide transmittance range, polarised characteristic and solar cell-driven electronic control module make liquid crystal sunglasses the best choice for professional drivers, commuters and drivers,' the company said.

The core components required for the sunglasses are manufactured in Canada with the remaining assembly work done in Dongguan in the mainland.

These cutting-edge sunglasses, no costlier than brand-name sunglasses, are distributed worldwide. Brighten Optics is taking the concept further by extending the technology to prescriptive lenses with a plan to launch the line in one to two years.

The concept used for prescriptive eyewear is similar to the breakthrough in sunglasses. Rather than having to buy new glasses each time your eyesight deteriorates, the technology enables wearers to buy just one pair that optical technicians can adjust according to the wearer's needs.

Founded in 1997, Vancouver-based Brighten Optics has successfully marketed a range of optical products mostly in North America and Europe. It designs, manufactures and markets high precision, off-the-shelf custom optics products. In 2003, the company strengthened its research and development capabilities by creating the Optical R&D Group.