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Job-Stealing Eyeglasses Are Here

jobsCould this new eyeglass technology put a whole profession out of business?

The Times reports on Adlens Variable Focus, a company that offers self-adjusting glasses. Knobs on the side of the glasses allow wearers to adjust the strength of the prescription themselves. The implications are huge:

There are distinct advantages to variable-focus glasses like these. First, you can tweak the lenses independently for each eye. Second, you can adjust them for different situations—tired eyes often need more help—or even different people. They’re a natural for restaurants, which can hand them out to patrons who’ve forgotten their reading glasses. Third, you can adjust them yourself, without requiring an eye doctor or a prescription.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 62,600 opticians in America in 2010. Opticians are technicians whose sole job is fitting glasses and contact lens. These new adjustable eyeglasses could be a total category killer for the profession. Of course, people will still have to see doctors to treat eye-related medical problems; these glasses don’t, for example, diagnose conditions like glaucoma. So for now, more advanced eye-care fields like optometry and opthalmology will be safe.

As we read about the other “smart glass” technology highlighted in the Times story, we can’t help but think the future is here. And the pace of change is only going to pick up. This story is only a harbinger of technological whirlwind that is going to eliminate and drastically reshape a whole host of professions.

One response to this reality would be to panic about the plight of all those soon-to-be unemployed opticians. If you’ve been reading us awhile, you know what we think about that response. The sooner we stop fighting a rearguard action to preserve the status quo, the sooner we can begin helping people find their way into the jobs of the future.

[Classified ad photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • Fat_Man

    They might be useful if you loose or break your glasses and you could buy them at Walgreen’s for $25 to hold you until you get back to your optician and can order a replacement set.

    But,, they cannot be as light as single focus glasses. And lightness counts in making glasses to wear all day.

  • Nick Bidler

    Clearly, just as with taxi-hailing apps, the answer is to outlaw them.

    • Corlyss

      If they don’t get more stylish models, outlawing them may not be necessary.

  • Andrew Allison


  • Pait

    I have adjusting glasses, not the Adlens but the older Superfocus. It is significantly more expensive but it is tailored to the user, and corrects for astigmatism.

    I think you are a little too optimistic about the impact of these new technologies. Although I am happy with Superfocus, the optics are not as good as the best conventional glasses, which do require a specialist to prescribe. I think opticians can hope to keep their jobs for a while.

    The main problem is that eyeglass store chains are able to keep information under tight control. While I can easily check reports and opinion on consumer goods, for example before buying a new photo camera, there seem to be no way to compare the dozens of lens brands before buying. Optical chains in particular are keen on selling inferior glass for higher prices. Small stores in my experience are more reliable, but tend to sell more expensive stuff.

    A consumer report style website would do a lot more good for the nearsighted than self-adjusting glasses.

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