The gadgets of the future might be able to compensate for your crummy vision so you can leave the reading glasses on the desk. A prototype system developed by University of California, Berkeley uses your optical prescription to tailor the image on a screen to your eyes, essentially counteracting what the optics of your eye are doing to mangle the light. The best part is this technique requires only minor modifications to existing technology as most of the magic is happening in software — it’s computational correction, not optical correction.
Glasses or contact lenses are designed to correct for the way a person’s eyes improperly refract light. Ideally, the light rays should be focused on the retina at the back of the eye, not in front of (nearsightedness) or behind (farsightedness) it. The Berkeley display technology, developed by computer science researcher Brian Barsky and his team, can alter light from each pixel to tune it to the imperfections of the eye so the image appears clear when it arrives. It’s sort of like putting the corrective lenses directly on the screen instead of on your face.
Luckily, this doesn’t require an entirely new screen technology that only exists in a laboratory somewhere. The team used an iPod Touch fitted with a thin acrylic filter over the screen. The filter is covered in thousands of tiny, evenly spaced holes for light to pass through. This creates a type of “light field display” capable of controlling the way light rays emanate from the screen. In this case it is used to create a sharper image.
This approach is certainly neat, but it shares a lot of problems with glasses-free 3D screen technologies. The de-blurring effect only works in a narrow viewing angle and for just one person at a time. Well, more accurately, for one prescription at a time, but you probably don’t want to share a screen with someone based solely on matching optical focal lengths — or maybe that’s going to be a new checkbox for internet dating. If your eyes don’t match the corrective index of the display, you won’t see a clear image, and the same is true if you move your head too far away from center. That’s not a huge problem for a handheld mobile device like a smartphone or the iPod Touch used in the study, but wouldn’t work very well for a TV.
The study was done with a DSLR and a series of lenses to mimic the human eye, but the next step is to design a version of the filter and accompanying software that can be used in the real world. The researchers speculate that a display about double the resolution of the iPod could also allow more than one viewer to use the same display simultaneously. An iPod Touch has a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, and the highest currently available on a mobile device is the LG G3′s 1440p LCD at 538 PPI. That’s not too far off. When most people end up needing some sort of corrective lenses in their lifetimes, this technology could make the gadgets of the future much more convenient.
|Evernote helps you remember everything and get organized effortlessly. Download Evernote.|