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Can smartphones help your vision?

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Everybody has a smartphone these days and we've all heard it - the use of technological devices can have a negative impact on our eyes. As we get older, it’s normal that we start having trouble seeing everything clearly and using a smartphone can be challenging, but is there a chance that smartphones can actually correct our vision instead of harming it? 

The aging eye

Looking at phone in the dark

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It's common for adults aged 40 and above to begin experiencing difficulties with their eyesight, although they have never had a problem with their vision before. In fact, blurred vision at a close proximity, such as when reading or using a computer, is one of the most common vision problems faced by those aged 40 and above.

This is called presbyopia and occurs when the lens in your eye is no longer as soft and flexible as it once was, and therefore cannot change shape as readily, making it difficult to conduct activities at close range. Presbyopia is as natural as grey hair or wrinkles, and unfortunately, most of us will be reaching for our reading glasses when we are in our 40s.

If you suffer from presbyopia, it can be challenging to use your smartphone. However, in today’s society we are becoming steadily more reliant on our smartphones. Digital screens have rapidly become an omnipresent aspect of everyday life and are particularly fundamental in the routines of both work and our private lives. Smartphone screens are only a fraction of the size of laptop and desktop screens, so it is no wonder that many users struggle to see them clearly.

What is a vision-correcting display screen?

Glasses, smartphone and pen

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If you have a visual impairment, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or presbyopia, you may find it challenging to focus your eyes on anything which is outside your focal range, resulting in images or text on a digital device appearing blurred. If you’re tired of the hassle of digging out your glasses every time you want to read or reply to a text message, there may be a solution for you.

After much research, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of California have teamed up to develop a clear “vision-correcting display,” which works in a similar way to a glasses lens by fixing blurriness. The display screen fits onto the screen of your smartphone and other gadgets and works in conjunction with a software program to help you see the device clearly, without the need of glasses or contact lenses.

As the technology continues to grow, MIT research scientist Gordon Wetzstein says that users will eventually be able to input their optical prescription to further improve the accuracy of the vision correction. Unlike wearing contact lenses or glasses, this “vision-correcting display” is not invasive in any way as it does not have to be inserted into your eye or worn, like contact lenses or spectacles. Wetzstein and his colleagues imagine the display to be used in cars to help drivers read their odometers and GPS devices without the need for reading glasses.

But can this actually correct vision?

Someone sat outside on their mobile phone

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Like any new gadget on the market, the vision-correcting display has its setbacks. Unfortunately, this new display technology does not correct your vision entirely. Rather, it will only improve your sight whilst you are looking at the screen of your device.

So, if you have difficulties focusing on long distance, you will still have to wear glasses or contact lenses, which means the display screen isn’t very useful. However, if you suffer from presbyopia, the screen will most likely come in handy because it will allow you to carry around your smartphone without necessarily having to take your glasses with you wherever you go.