Future Apple devices could theoretically sport vision-correcting displays

Those of us who need glasses to see a laptop or TV screen clearly may one day be able to ditch our specs or contact lens thanks to a display technology that corrects vision problems, according to Technology Review. If the technology pans out — and, man, I sure hope it does — it would be great to see Apple incorporate it into Macs, iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches.

The technology — as described in a University of California, Berkeley paper (http://bit.ly/1onzNIR) — uses algorithms to alter an image based on a person’s glasses prescription together with a light filter set in front of the display. The algorithm alters the light from each individual pixel so that, when fed through a tiny hole in the plastic filter, rays of light reach the retina in a way that re-creates a sharp image. Researchers say the idea is to anticipate how your eyes will naturally distort whatever’s onscreen—something glasses or contacts typically correct—and adjust it beforehand so that what you see appears clear, notes Technology Review.

"While light field displays have conventionally been used for glasses-free 3D image presentation, correcting for visual aberrations of observers is a promising new direction with direct benefits for millions of people," says the UC Berkeley paper. "We believe that our approach is the first to make such displays practical by providing both high resolution and contrast—the two design criteria that have been driving the display industry for the last decade. We envision future display systems to be integrated systems comprising flexible optical configurations combined with sophisticated computing that allow for different modes, such as 2D, glasses-free 3D, or vision-correcting image display."

Don't look for such displays for several years. There are still challenges to work out. For instance, the technique depends on a person’s focal length; the technology researchers tested requires whoever’s using it to keep his eyes still, or requires software that tracks head movement and adjusts the image accordingly, notes Technology Review. Also, while the technology can be adjusted for different viewers, it won’t currently work for several people simultaneously who have different vision needs. 

However, Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, tells Technology Review that if researchers used a display with a high enough resolution—about double the 326 pixels per inch of the iPod touch used in the paper—the technology could be made to be used by more than one person at once.