A Display-Tweaking Algorithm Could Let You Ditch Glasses and Contacts

I spend too much of my waking life staring at screens. If you're reading this, you probably do, too. So instead of putting things on or in front of our imperfect eyeballs to correct and protect them, how about rethinking the screens we're staring at? Researchers at Berkeley, MIT, and Microsoft have developed a prototype that could one day make glasses or contacts obsolete—at least when you're looking at your phone or computer.

In essence, the idea is to anticipate how your glasses-dependent eyeballs will distort light, applying the reverse distortion before it actually reaches your eyes. The setup has two parts. The first is an algorithm that warps the image customized to your specific prescription. The screen is then overlaid with a clear, plastic filter pierced with thousands of tiny holes, which controls the light to create a crisper image.

That's how it works in theory. The researchers, who will present their research at the computer graphics conference SIGGRAPH in August, made a prototype using an iPod Touch and a screen cover made of acrylic. As Rachel Metz at MIT Technology Review points out, there are still some kinks to work out, like how you have to keep your head a fixed distance away to see clearly.

But as someone with terrible eyesight who does the absurd thing of checking email with my phone three inches from my face every morning in bed, the idea of corrective screens is tantalizing. The technology is also good for less absurd uses, such as correcting vision defects like spherical aberration that traditional glasses can't fix well. Here's to a future with less squinting. [MIT Tech Review]