What will tomorrow’s spectacle lenses look like? What will they do? Innovators in the lens field weigh in on what the future may hold for lens tech

Though we may still be waiting for our flying cars, technology has delivered on many of the predictions made in the past.

Automatic computing devices for every person? Check. Telecommunication devices worn on the wrist? Oh yes. Phones that allow you to see the person you’re talking to? You bet.

We’re even beginning to see some of yesterday’s predictions about eyewear come true in the form of adjustable-focus lenses, heads-up computer displays, virtual reality headgear, and eyewear-mounted cameras.

But what’s still to come in the spectacle lens arena? Where will innovation take us?

EB asked several leaders in the lens world to give us their thoughts on where the technology will go in the next five or 10 years—and beyond.

The Smart Technology

“For the past 100 years, spectacles have been a passive piece of glass or plastic sitting on your nose. Going forward, spectacles will become ‘smart’ the same way your phone has. Your glasses will adapt to your needs during the day. Your glasses will interact with you, they will see what you are up to and help.

The lenses will switch both in optical power and in color, and they will provide you with information about the world around you: directions, weather, people, et cetera.

Why pull out your phone to get messages? Why lower your gaze to look at your dashboard? Why find a TV to watch a show when you have a perfect device on your nose to help you see?”

—Guido Groet
Chief Commercial Officer, Luxexcel
(Belgium-based company that’s making 3D-printed lenses a reality)

The Simplicity

“The lenses of the future will be impressive in their simplicity, while using the most sophisticated software to deliver the most customized vision for the patient. We’re already seeing major breakthroughs in using intelligent technology to personalize a patient’s lenses, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. The real leap forward will be advancements in technology to simplify the fitting process for eyecare professionals and meet every unique characteristic of a patient’s vision.”

—Randy Dannewitz
Vice President, Strategic Development
VSP Optics Group

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The Materials

“I believe the future of lenses will see more development of composite materials, where a lens won’t just be made of a single material such as polycarbonate or high index, but rather a combination of several materials, each contributing its own positive attributes. A recent example of this is the Transitions Poly Composite Multifocal products released in the last few years.

In addition, progressive lenses made with free-form technology will become more prevalent, using both sides of the lens with special designs rather than just a single-vision front paired with a back-surface design.

Progressive designs will also be continuously improved by more direct wearer feedback built into designs.”

—David Rips
President + CEO, Younger Optics

The Adaptability

“The lens of the future will be adaptive and active. It will change color automatically to filter light to enhance vision in special conditions (like driving) or to assist a healthy lifestyle (like reinforcing circadian rhythms). In addition, the power of the lens will change depending on gaze distance, automatically adapting to vision needs.

Finally, the eyeglasses may replace the need for wristwatches and phone displays; information will be displayed onto the wearer’s lens by Bluetooth from their Internet-connected device.”

—Phil Miller
Vice President of North American R&D,
Essilor of America

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The Patient Experience

“We just celebrated the iPhone’s 10th birthday, and it is apparent that how we use our eyes has changed dramatically. We spend more time in front of screens than ever before—and often juggling multiple devices. Accessible technology like we see in current health-based apps can help patients appreciate the benefits of personalized lenses.

Currently the ECP drives demand for premium personalized lenses. However, in the future as patients become more educated on their options, they will drive the demand, and the expectations for the post-exam visual experience will be very high.”

—Maria Petruccelli
Director, Brand Marketing, Americas, HOYA Vision Care

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“The future of lenses lies with personalized solutions, designed for the specific lifestyle needs of every individual patient. Selling lenses will increasingly become about the patient’s experience—a journey that begins with setting an appointment, stepping into the lobby, entering the exam room, and continues through the dispensary and even the post-visit follow-up. Every piece of equipment (will be) interconnected, passing along critical information, and maximizing the end result: a lens truly adapted to the needs of the patient, customized to his/her lifestyle, the shape of his/her face, et cetera.

We have already witnessed the trend toward lifestyle solutions with our all-day lenses designed for driving, digital lenses that mitigate digital eye strain, and even an end-of-day lens made just for contact lens wearers—and I expect it to continue and intensify.”

—Jens Boy
President, Carl Zeiss Vision, North America

There Are Endless Possibilities

Michael C. Vitale, ABOM
Technical Director & Lens Division Liaison
The Vision Council

“As for lens designs, we will continue to see further development in customized lens designs to meet the specific needs of the patient as well as the way in which the patient is wearing them. The capabilities for custom designs are endless now that digital processing is mainstream. We have such a wide variety of excellent lens designers in the markets that will help with this growth. This holds true for single-vision lenses as well as progressives.

As far as materials go, we should continue to see development of high-index materials that have greater physical and optical properties.

Another area that I believe we will see tremendous growth is with thin film coatings and filters. Our coating companies continue to bring filters to market to meet the needs for targeted applications. We have seen this recently with coatings that filter specific wavelengths of light. There are endless possibilities in this category.”