Ask almost anyone who wears bifocal or progressive glasses, and they'll tell you what a pain they are to use. Personally, I've considered going back to separate distance and reading glasses, but now it looks like there may be a technological solution to this centuries old problem.
Progressive lenses require you to look through a specific part of the lens depending on the distance, and even then your view can be kind of distorted outside the center of your field of view. Now a company called Pixel Optics has developed an electronically switched bifocal lens, with a reading area that you can switch on and off with a simple swipe along the side piece. There's also an automatic setting where the reading area switches on when you tip your head forward, like when reading a map in your car for example. Does anyone still use maps?
The glasses work by changing the optics of the lens electronically, using an LCD like layer embedded inside the lens. Rechargeable batteries inside the frames power the lens adjusting electronics, and are recharged at night.
I'm constantly taking off my progressive glasses to read, so to me this sounds like an awesome idea. My only concern is the projected $1,200 asking price. I tend to trash my lenses pretty quickly, but with these I would have to be more careful.
The Pixel Power emPower glasses will become available in the Southeastern US starting in April 2011, with a national roll out by the end of the year.
Via Pixel Optics