Meg Farris / Medical Reporter
NEW ORLEANS -- It's the unofficial sign that you've reached middle age. And it seems to happen overnight.
Around 40 or 50 years of age, you have a harder time seeing smaller things up close without reading glasses or bifocals.
Well now smartphone technology has come to your eye doctor's office. And the glasses are nothing like you've seen before.
Until now, there were bifocals with the line in the middle, or the newer progressive lenses, allowing you to see far away in the center then gradually fading to your reading glasses prescription to see up close when you looked down. But those meant you lost some of your peripheral vision. It became blurry.
"You have to turn your head, point your nose to see what ever you're looking at," said Maureen Maglione, a PixelOptics Area Manager, about progressive lenses.
"There's a sweet spot and you always have to look through that sweet spot to see," said Tony Banh, the optical manager of Ideal Vision Care in Baton Rouge, referring to the current progressive lenses on the market.
But now enter 21st century technology and the 'emPower!.'
"There's a very wide field of vision," explained Maglione of the new eyeglasses.
"Oh, okay, so I can see all the way over here. No more sweet spot. No more portal," noted Phil Rainier, a reporter trying on the glasses for the first time.
Think of the technology in your smartphone, then think of these new bifocal type glasses as smart glasses. They plug in overnight to recharge the battery. They have a light to show they are on or off.
And just like you swipe your smartphone to answer a call, for instance, you also swipe the emPower! glasses to turn them on or change the mode.
"When they need to look at their watch, they'll just touch their temple and a liquid crystal reading segment pops up and gives them the additional power needed to see close up," said Maglione.
If you hold the glasses just right, you can see the embedded liquid crystal. Normally it's nearly invisible. That lets you see up close when you need to. You can also swipe the temple and activate the automatic mode. That turns 'on' the lens when you look down and 'off' the moment you look up, freeing up the entire lens for distance viewing.
There's no distortion in your peripheral vision. So just by tilting your head, you electronically go from distance to reading, faster than the blink of an eye.
"The electronic, the automatic feature there and then the touch feature, it's just amazing. That's amazing and I think patients are going to really be wowed by that and accept that and embrace that technology," said Dr. Robert Janot, an optometrist from Sulphur, Louisiana.
Smart lens technology is the biggest advance in glasses since the bifocals.
"The wonderful thing about emPower! is that the lens itself gives the wearer all distances from far distance to arms length which is the world we live in," said Maglione.
"Tip your head down, pops on automatically," demonstrates Maglione.
"Absolutely," responds Dr. Janot. "Wow."
A company demonstration video shows how it looks when the reading portion of the glasses comes "on."
When "off," it demonstrates the ability to see clearly from head to toe, which you don't get with traditional progressive lenses.
"From what I see, that's going to be the wave of the future," said Banh.
The glasses are made by a company called PixelOptics, and like all brand new high tech gadgets, the price is high, $1,300.
And if your eyes need a new prescription, you'll need new glasses.
For more on the world's first electronic focusing eyewear, click here.
For locations in Louisiana and Mississippi, click here.