There is something about spectacles that seems both timeless and retro – after all they have been around for many, many years relatively unchanged. The only recent leap-forward in eye-wear tech was the Google Glass which was a much-hyped launch but ultimately a flop. As a wearer of spectacles myself, it was with some excitement that I noted a new innovation from a company called TouchFocus; in short, they are launching spectacles that allow users to switch focus with touch of the finger. For people suffering from presbyopia (natural loss of ability to focus on nearby objects that occurs with age), a single pair of glasses or contact lenses can no longer provide them with clear vision at all distances. Although glasses with progressive or multi-focus lenses, such as bifocals or trifocals, have been developed, many people have problems getting used to these lenses because of their restricted field of vision. As such, this novel tech is squarely aimed at this market segment, which generally skews to an older population.

So how does it work? Well at first glance, TouchFocus appears to be simply a pair of stylish spectacle, but hidden inside the frame is an electric circuit. With a touch to a sensor installed in the temple, the liquid crystal lenses are activated which allow the eye-wear to change focus from distance to close by instantaneously. The product is powered by a long-lasting, easily chargeable battery.

Sounds simple enough right? I liked this example of product innovation as this would be a perfect example of a product article that an interviewer might ask you to review and comment on during an interview, even for someone planning to focus on the biological sciences. While you might have no idea what “liquid crystal lenses” are, you should be able to leverage your chemistry and physics background to at least put forward a hypothesis as to how these lenses might work. At the very least, all students should have a good working knowledge of the human eye and how the lenses in our eyes are able to refocus light by changing shape via manipulation of surrounding muscles. From that starting point, could you come up with a sensible idea? Spend some time thinking through possibilities before heading over to the company’s website to learn more about how it works. Can you think about other applications where this technology could be applied?