When it comes to deflecting the sun’s blinding rays, even fancy polarized sunglasses don’t always cut the glare completely. A new LCD technology developed by physicist Chris Mullin, however, could result in “smart” eyewear that detects bright spots of light and darkens them accordingly. Together with Albert Titus, an electrical engineer at the University at Buffalo, Mullin developed “Dynamic Eyes,” a working prototype that could shield sensitive eyes and make it easier for drivers to monitor oncoming traffic. Although it won’t be hitting the consumer market anytime soon, Mullin’s invention appears promising. Besides a spot on Popular Science’s list of the year’s top 10 inventions, the project has also attracted the interest of the U.S. Air Force, along with the automotive, recreational, and healthcare industries.
The lenses are actually LCD screens, with pixels that can be turned on and off to black out certain areas. (A light-detecting sensor at the nose bridge works with a microprocessor to “tell” certain pixels where the glare is.) When the wearer turns his head or the glare moves, the blacked-out pixels respond by changing positions.
“When there is no glare, it’s just a pair of sunglasses,” Mullins says.
“Our products let users see more in glare situations than ever before, because they reduce direct glare 10 to 100 times more than any other sunglasses,” says Mullin. “When there is no glare, it’s just a pair of sunglasses.”
Because fighter pilots and soldiers who see more clearly have a better tactical advantage, Mullins is currently working on a set of glare-reducing sunglasses for the military. The glare-reducing sunglasses could also benefit glaucoma patients with sensitivity to light, as well as drivers who want their rearview mirrors and windshields to guard against bright headlights or the sun.