Google Glass: A Scary and Amazing Invention

By Paddy Kamen

There’s little doubt that Google Glass is amazing, but does it place the wearer and those around her at risk?

What is it? 

Google Glass is a wearable computer system: an eyeglass-style frame with a wireless computer attached, complete with camera and microphone. It was recently released in beta version to a select group of people. It can be worn without lenses or with them, and Google is apparently in discussion with several eyeglass manufacturers about models for people with vision correction needs. The computer sits on the right temple and the visual display and camera on the right upper lens area.

What’s Amazing About it?

Glass provides a translucent viewing screen just above the wearer’s field of vision, so you can see data and visuals projected, while still being able to see through it. So, for example, the screen could act as a GPS while you are driving, it can project information about your flight departure time while you’re on the way to the airport, or let you know where you can find a grocery store nearby.

The device is voice activated. In the video released by Google[1], wearers say to the device, ‘O.K. Glass… what is the temperature?’ or ‘take a picture’, or ‘where am I?’ But, like a smart phone, Google Glass also pushes data that it thinks you want.

Glass can also be used as a camera that films whatever is in front of you so you can participate in the action, while sharing it live with friends and also recording it for later viewing.

How is it Scary? 

Steve Mann is known as the father of computer vision systems. The University of Toronto professor of electrical and computer engineering created his first computerized vision system when he was still in high school back in the 1970s. He has continued to invent in the field and wears his own device, which is more sophisticated than Google Glass, most of the time.

Mann has some interesting things to say about Glass in an article on the IEEE Spectrum site.[2] He writes:

My concern comes from direct experience. The very first wearable computer system I put together showed me real-time video on a helmet-mounted display. The camera was situated close to one eye, but it didn’t have quite the same viewpoint. The slight misalignment seemed unimportant at the time, but it produced some strange and unpleasant results.  

And those troubling effects persisted long after I took the gear off. That’s because my brain had adjusted to an unnatural view, so it took a while to readjust to normal vision.

He goes on to identify other possible effects on vision:

These systems all contain lenses that make the display appear to hover in space, farther away than it really is. That’s because the human eye can’t focus on something that’s only a couple of centimeters away, so an optical correction is needed. But what Google and other companies are doing – using fixed-focus lenses to make the display appear farther away – is not good.

Using lenses in this way forces one eye to remain focused at some set distance while the focus of the other eye shifts according to whatever the wearer is looking at, near or far. Doing this leads to severe eyestrain, which again can be harmful, especially to children.

Dr. Ralph Chou, Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry, has concerns about the attentional capacity of Google Glass wearers.

“I wonder if you would have the same kind of attention deficit using this device when driving as you would when texting or phoning. Also, if you are locked into looking at an image within part of your field of view, will you be paying attention to whatever else is in front of you? Under the best conditions most will have difficulty attending to what they are doing while accessing extraneous information on the fly. I can see this as a useful device for certain things but the big ‘but’ is, how safe would you be to navigate a car, walk, or ride a bicycle where you have to be aware of your surroundings.”

And, while not exactly scary, there’s also the question of how plugged in a person really needs to be. When asked if he would like to try Glass, Chou responded: “Personally it holds no attraction for me, as I don’t feel the need to be plugged in all day long. But I can think of some more tech-savvy friends who might love it.”



[1] www.google.com/glass

[2] http://spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/profiles/steve-mann-my-augmediated-life

Ocular Apps for Every Reason and Every Season

By Evra Taylor

technologyScarcely a day goes by that we don’t hear of another smart phone application (app) being developed for every industry – and seemingly for every market and demographic. With this sudden influx of technology that promises to make our lives easier and better, have we reached the saturation point in what these new programs can do for us? Not by a long shot.

Apps relating to eyecare and eyewear are emerging left, right and centre for eyecare practitioners as well as for consumers. A host of apps are available for every type of smart phone, encompassing a myriad of topics such as eye health, eye exams, dispensing, medical education, and contact lens wear and care. As for eyewear consumers, they can also enjoy techno-forward apps that offer such services as try-on eyewear and vision enhancement.

So how does the iPhone, for example, become the “eye phone”? The following is a sampling of apps that highlight the important ways in which technology has revolutionized the eyecare industry.

For eyecare practitioners

Eye Exams

A fascinating example of an eye exam tool that “outsmarts” the smartest patient is the Random Eye Chart app made by Dok LLC. Knowing that patients who frequently visit their optometrist may become habituated to the Snellen eye chart and memorize the chart’s letter order, techno-designers developed an app that scrambles the chart, randomizing the letter order.

NETRA cell phone-based optometry solutions offers an interactive platform for measuring refractive errors and focal range, featuring a lenticular view-dependent display for use with the human eye at close range. The platform measures eye parameters such as refractive errors, focal range and lens opacity. 

Dispensing

Offering your patients the “at your fingertips” convenience of a professional dispensing video is a novel value-added service. EyeDispense HD is an iPad app, a “virtual video” that can help patients visualize what they’ll look like in a particular eyeglass frame. A simple panning shot captures video in 40 seconds, to a maximum of four frames. Patients can also compare one frame with the other. A convenient “pause” feature allows the patient to view any given angle. The final touch is being able to send photos by email or post them on Facebook for sharing purposes.

Reference

The focus of EyeDock, another app created by an optometrist, is contact lens fitting and ophthalmic medication searches. It is a companion app to eyedock.com, a website for eyecare professionals.

The Eye Handbook app is a comprehensive reference and diagnostic tool that includes calculators, equipment, as well as medication and treatment information.

Optical Tool, developed by an optician, is designed to provide students, faculty and opticians with quick access to optical information. It currently has seven formulas (back vertex, compensated power, oblique meridian, Prentice’s Rule, resultant prism (resolving prism and thickness), and includes detailed information about each formula.

Consumer apps that you can recommend to your patients

Eye Exams

At-home eye exams have become increasingly popular as consumers become proactive in testing and maintaining their health. EyeXam is an example of an itunes app that combines several features such as tests for astigmatism and eye dominance.  Perhaps its utilitarian design stems from the fact that it was developed by two optometrists.

Vision enhancement

iCanSee packages the old-fashioned magnifying glass in a high-tech format. Simple magnification allows users to see in difficult situations, including low light. The app offers various degrees of magnification.

Dispensing

A number of eyeglass frame manufacturers – including Silhouette with its iMirror – have launched apps that simplify the process of trying on glasses, making the frame selection process easier and faster – and an experience that can be shared digitally via Facebook, for example.

No matter what your choice of app, there’s no doubt that this advanced smart phone technology has revolutionized the optical industry by allowing much more sophisticated medical information gathering and eye health assessment than previously existed. The now-famous adage, “There’s an app for that” holds as true for the optical industry as for any other.

The advances in technology that these apps represent have, in some cases, blurred the line between the professional and consumer spaces. They have allowed consumers the opportunity to “enter the optometrist’s world” via at-home eye exams, for example. While sheer convenience makes this option an extremely attractive one, opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists alike are aware of the fact that face-to-face contact with patients – and building lasting relationships with them – are cornerstones of creating and maintaining a successful optical practice. Devices, platforms and digital tools are best used when they are combined with a personal approach that patients will never forget.

An Audacious Clip-On System from Audace Lunettes

An Audacious Clip-On System from Audace Lunettes

Audace Lunettes introduces a revolutionary system for ECPs, enabling them to design custom clip-ons for their clients. They receive the tailor-made product in 48 hours.

The clip-on system, called COLOR clip, comes with a work station installation at the eyecare professional’s office. The ECP takes a digital image of the frame, then designs the clip-on and sends the information to the lab. The clip-on is made from the specifications within 48 hours, ready to be delivered to the patient.

The clip-on system allows the professional to completely respect the shape of the frame, while allowing unique design elements that makes it funny and funky. All lenses are made from triacetate material. There is a choice of 5 different colours with polarized treatment at no extra cost. The clip, a full mask of cellulose triacetate, has no bridge and no metal bare.

The new system guarantees that wearing the clip will not damage the frame’s paint or scratch the lens, thanks to a hook made of a soft material.

“The eyecare professional appreciates the system for the flexibility in its design, the rapid delivery and the unique services they provide,” says Audace Lunettes President Alain Lachambre. “The digital imaging system also allows the ECP to sell a clip to a walk-in customer since there is no need to keep the frame. You digitalize the frame in 20 seconds and the work is on its way. With such ease and simplicity, many clients see this as an opportunity to offer products that will increase revenue and service distinction,” he adds.

It is clear that this new service will change the landscape of clip offering. Lachambre believes that in a highly competitive market, where consumers have a multitude of options, it is more important than ever to embrace technology that provides a unique, quick, value-added service.

EyeDispense, the First Apple iPad2 App for ECPs

EyeDispense, the First Apple iPad2 App for ECPs

EyeDispense, a portable ophthalmic dispensing application, has been launched through the Apple App Store. Designed by Edinburgh, Scotland-based optometrist David Crystal, this application is a fast, professional tool for successful video dispensing, giving clients with poor vision an easy and enjoyable way to select a frame.

Utilizing iPad 2’s rear camera, the App allows the operator to take four different three-second video clips for the client to compare their frame choices at a glance. The choices can be emailed or uploaded to Facebook, should they want to ask for their friends’ or family’s opinion.

Designed for iPad 2, the new App is a versatile solution for video dispensing, allowing the operator to move around the practice.

Developer and owner of independent optical store Eyecare Plus, David Crystal commented: “I have developed this App especially for optical professionals, to make the purchase of spectacles an easier experience for clients without their optical correction. The hi-tech design of EyeDispense used in conjunction with iPad 2 will impress customers. We are delighted with the results in our store. As well as adding to our image as a leading practice with the latest technology, our clients are pleased that they can make a confident frame choice. It’s a truly cost-effective way to improve patient care.”

A Multi-Dimensional Challenge: 3D Eyewear for Television

By Paddy Kamen

specialreportWhile 3D eyewear offers an incremental opportunity for ECPs, there are challenges in understanding what consumers want and need for home entertainment.

Joe Williams got an unpleasant surprise when he settled down to watched the 3D DVD version of the film Avatar at the home of his friend Dave. TheSudbury,Ontarioman, who was wearing the 3D glasses that came with his own new 3D TV set, couldn’t see the movie properly. It turns out that Dave’s 3D TV came from a different manufacturer than Joe’s and the glasses didn’t work with Dave’s set.

Joe Williams’s frustration with the 3D TV experience isn’t uncommon.  So what’s a consumer to do? And how can niche retailers like eyecare professionals (ECPs) best position themselves to catch the 3D wave and profit from it?

Consumer awareness of the 3D options in home entertainment is growing. The NPD Group’s 3D 360° Monitor reported last February that in just six months, from September 2010 to February 2011, consumer awareness of 3D LCD televisions jumped from 28 to 36 per cent, while awareness of 3D plasma TVs rose from 21 to 32 per cent. However, they also pointed out that the price of 3D televisions and the need to wear special glasses were inhibiting wider adoption of the technology.

These consumer pain points are reflected in lackluster 3D TV sales, “with only 1.8 million or about two per cent of all U.S. homes that have a TV owning a 3D set by the end of 2011,” according to a recent report from American media research firm SNL Kagan. They predict that sales growth is expected to increase in 2012 and beyond, as 3D TV penetration grows from about five per cent in 2012 to 21 per cent in 2015.

3D Eyewear Basics 

Viewers need special 3D eyewear to correctly view 3D TV and movie productions because the filmmaking system captures two images that simulate the different perspectives of the left and right eyes. The eyewear separates the images so that just one of them appears to each eye, allowing the visual cortex to process the image as a whole, with greater depth and distance. 3D creates the appearance of objects coming out of the screen toward the viewer or drawing the viewer in.

There are two types of 3D eyewear competing for market supremacy: active and passive.

Active eyewear is battery-operated and contains liquid crystal (LC) shutters in each lens that turn on and off at a high rate of speed in response to a signal from the TV set. Passive 3D eyewear utilizes polarized lenses to decode 3D content by separating images for the right and left eyes using polarized filters. Within the passive category, there are different technologies, including linear polarization, which is used in IMAX® theatres, and the commonly used circular polarization used in RealD theatres. Televisions designed for passive eyewear have a thin film layer on the screen that displays two pictures that match the polarity of the glasses.

There are many points of comparison between the active and passive options. Active 3D eyewear may provide a brighter viewing image but the frames are heavy. The resolution per eye is somewhat greater with active 3D eyewear, although both types provide very good image quality. A PC World test of active and passive 3D eyewear on three different TV sets (one active and two passive), cast the winning vote for passive eyewear on an LG model passive 3D

TV.

Passive eyewear weighs less, needs no batteries and there is no compatibility problem between different passive TV sets when viewing 3D television. Active 3D eyewear that comes with specific televisions tends to present problems with TVs from other manufacturers. That said, there are ‘universal’ active 3D glasses available from the technology company Monster, although with the proviso that the “performance may vary depending on the 3D TV display used.”

Four industry giants have joined forces to standardized active 3D eyewear. Panasonic Corporation, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Sony Corporation and X6D Limited (XPAND 3D) are working together to bring a new technology standard to active 3D glasses under the name “Full HD 3D Glasses Initiative”. These universal glasses with infrared radio frequency technology are expected to be available in 2012.

Optical Retailer Challenges

Where does all this leave the optical retailer?

While a high percentage of 3D eyewear purchases will be made at electronics stores and cinemas (in addition to those bundled with TV purchases), there are excellent opportunities for eyecare professionals to participate in this market by selling high optical quality, durable 3D glasses – both plano and Rx. And manufacturers are responding to the opportunity in 3D eyewear with glasses that reflect current trends. Polaroid, for example, offers passive 3D fashion frames in retro stylings and the season’s latest colours. Ardent film buffs can find frames featuring the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign logo or stills from classic films. The company will be opening optical channels, where fit-over models can accommodate almost any optical frame.

Oakley claims to set the standard for optical performance in 3D with “the first optically correct 3D lenses.” Says CEO Colin Baden: “Oakley is developing a premium product segment with a range of 3D eyewear offerings and our R&D has achieved unparalleled visual clarity while extending the wearer’s peripheral viewing angle and providing truer alignment of 3D images. This is in addition to the quality, comfort, durability and precise fit of Oakley frame technology, along with styling that sets the high mark for today’s eyewear designs.”

Oakley offers the 3D Gascan and the limited edition Transformers Gascan with a Transformers logo on the temple.

Marchon is one of the undisputed leaders in the passive 3D field, with several patents awarded and outstanding. The company has created a subsidiary – Marchon3D – solely for the purpose of developing and marketing 3D eyewear to the consumer market. And in a technological coup, Marchon has created lenses  that function as passive 3D glasses while doing double duty as photochromic sunwear with full UVA and UVB protection.

Available in a house brand collection known as Marchon3D with 11 styles for men, women and tweens, and under the designer labels ck Calvin Klein and Nautica, Marchon3D offers a wide range of 3D eyewear.

Prescription wearers can have their needs met by Marchon as well. The firm will collaborate with Younger Optics to manufacture semi-finished Rx circular polarized 3D lens blanks for both single vision and progressive lens wearers, starting in 2012. Ultraclips clip-on sun protection lenses are also available to match many Rx styles across a number of brands.

Marchon3D President David Johnson acknowledges that the adoption rate of 3D TVs is somewhat below expectations. But he is firm in his belief that 3D is the technology of the future. “The use of 3D in education has proven that children retain information at a greater rate because of the immersion and engagement that 3D enables. Sports leagues, the medical community and governments all see the value in 3D and are using it,” Johnson notes. “It will continue to grow as 3D content providers ramp up their offerings and the television format stabilizes.”