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Posted on Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 5:58 a.m.

Ann Arbor optometrist: New lenses offer seamless vision for bi-focal wearers

By Laura Blodgett

Bi-focal wearers who are weary of traditional progressive lenses now have a new option. New bi-focal lenses—called emPower! electronic eyeglasses — enable wearers to look between the distance, intermediate and reading portions of the lens without the distortion that happens when you move your eye from one field to another.

“With progressive lenses, the problem has always been — and still is — that the area that you look through for intermediate and reading is limited. It does not go from edge to edge,” said Dr. Steven Bennett, owner of Bennett Optometry, which says it recently became the first Michigan optometrist to carry the glasses. “At those edges there’s distortion and a lot of people can’t get used to that. But it’s the best we had at this point.”

Until now.


Bennett Optometry's Steven Bennett is now offering a new kind of electronic focusing eyeglasses.

Laura Blodgett | For


Bennett Optometry is now offering PixelOptics' emPower! electronic eyeglasses.

Laura Blodgett | For

The secret of PixelOptics’ emPower! electronic eyeglasses is a transparent liquid crystal layer in the center of each lens that electronically activates the reading portion when the wearer needs it.

Turning the reading portion on or off happens virtually instantaneously.

When the wearer taps the right temple, it activates the crystal, which turns on the reading area. When the wearer taps them again, it turns off the reading portion, allowing them to perform activities that involve distance vision.

“If you are at a seminar taking notes and looking up at a PowerPoint [presentation], the change is less than the time of a blink,” said Bennett. The lenses have almost edge-to-edge clarity from top to bottom.

Some believe emPower! eyeglasses will become the choice for the tens of millions of consumers that suffer from presbyopia, the diminished ability to focus on near objects that affect many starting around the age of 40.

“This is a lens that really can help golfers and active people that hate their progressives because of the distortion and can’t be as active as they would like,” said Bennett, who recently ordered a pair for himself.

Although Bennett initially thought the glasses would appeal to a select niche, he would not be surprised if it appealed to a larger audience.

“For people who really want the best vision, these lenses have much better optics due to its free-form lens design, which is a higher technology.”

Similar to a cell phone, the glasses come with a charger, which has a light indicator that shows when they are done charging. “You put the glasses in the charger at night and in the morning you’re ready to roll,” Bennett said.

One difference from other glasses is that they cannot be run under the tap to clean them, which would be the same as running a cell phone under the water. A cloth is used to clean the lenses.

The frames come in a wide variety of styles from rimless to regular frame, and metal to plastic.

The glasses cost $1,300 for a complete set, including frames, lenses, coatings, charger and all electronics.

“In some cases, if you have a high prescription you’re going to pay $900 to $1,000 on a pair of progressive lens, so this is not a big stretch” said Bennett.

Orders take roughly the same amount of time as a regular pair of glasses, typically 10 days to two and a half weeks.

Other local optometrists are taking a wait and see approach.

“We are watching the release of this product closely,” said Jennifer Sortor, owner of Ann Arbor Optometry. “If it turns out that demand is high, then other optometrists will start carrying it."


Laura Blodgett

Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

I just want to address this because there seems to be some confusion. Most freelance writers write and edit copy on a project basis from a variety of sources, which may include agencies, non profit organizations, trade publications, etc. A google search on a working writer will bring up pages of work, which can go back ten years. All assignments I receive from are directly from the editors for articles to run in their publication. I also wanted to draw attention to the quote from Dr. Sortor, another eye doctor in Ann Arbor, who notes that optometrists are aware of the new technology and willalso carry it if they see there is a market for it.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 12:35 a.m.

It's an article about an interesting new technology. So what if it involves an interview with the only professional in the area to carry it. Let's not get hung up on the word "news" in "newspaper" and remember that it's all about information, and this article *is* informative and I'm happy to see it on the site. It is far from an ad.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:56 a.m.

It is an advertisement. An informative advertisement, yet still an advertisement. I'm fine with it because I recognize it as such.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

The problem I see is that Laura Blodgett is employed by Eiler Communications a PR and Marketing firm. Nowhere is it mentioned that she works for a PR firm and it is not clear if Dr. Bennett or PixelOptics is a client of hers. A quick search shows that many of her posts are a blend of news and PR. This suggests that these "news" pieces aren't really news at all but promotional materials that have skirted your guidelines. In instances such as these, should have a disclosure about conflicts of interest from freelance contributors.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

First, let's get this out of the way, glasses are a racket. If you really think glasses cost $900 or $1000 for a "good pair", then next time you are overseas you will see the same thing for about $50. Yes, the same thing. It's plastic and cheap metal, how much do you really think it costs? I am not saying Dr. Bennett or other offices are overcharging, as the mark-up usually happens before they even get the frames/lenses. Second, the criticism of this article as an "advertisement" is valid because little is done to explain the technology except the link to engadget. Next time, it would be helpful for the audience if the pros and cons of these lenses were explained by uninterested parties. These type of lenses are not comparable to progressive lenses as they are fixed focal length glasses. Progressive lenses are multifocal. This means they are more similar to bifocals. So if you are of the age where you require trifocals or progressive lenses, then they may not be that helpful. If you look closely at the tie in the video from the link, you'll see a ring of distortion and chromatic aberration centrally in the lens, which might affect night vision. I think as Dr. Bennett noted, there is a place for this product in the marketplace. Maybe sportsmen who need to sight their gun or bow. Maybe future iterations of the device will be have pupil-trackers that could adjust the liquid crystal to different focal lengths. In the meantime, you can buy prescription glasses for about $50-$100 on the internet or much less if you just need the reading portion (about $5-15 for bifocals and $20-$40 for progressives). No, the quality isn't as good as what you would get in the store, so get a couple pairs.


Sun, Dec 18, 2011 : 3:54 a.m.

@kathryn: I agreed that the quality isn't the same (that's my last sentence). Yet, what exactly do you think glasses are made of if not plastic and metal? But it must be the highest quality plastic, right?


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 11:02 p.m.

Glasses may be overpriced, but it is not true that they are just "plastic and cheap metal." I can only assume that you only use reading glasses. Anyone who wears glasses all day every day and NEEDS them to see knows that there are differences between lens materials and those differences affect how well you can see. The differences in frame materials affect how comfortable they are and how long they last. Cheaper is not always better or even the same; sometimes it's just cheap.

Mike D.

Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 6:04 p.m.

Journalism is dead. Res ipsa loquitur.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 4:14 p.m.

My bifocals regularly ran $500-600 (frames plus lenses). Add in some $300-400 for dedicated computer distance lens, and I was putting down almost $1000 for glasses if I had to buy both frames and lenses. My prescription was strong enough that I paid for the lightest, thinnest lens I could get, which ups the cost considerably. To cut the cost, I'd only get new frames every few years and just update the lenses. I've seen high end designer frames that could have easily pushed the cost of a single pair of glasses to $800 or more, so his quote is at the upper extreme end for super strong prescriptions, all the bells and whistles (e.g. coatings), and expensive frames. Not likely for most people, but not impossible either. (All this is "was" because I had lasik. Now I can buy cheap dimestore readers, and I only pay bigger bucks for computer-distance lens, but with a low prescription now I don't have to get the most expensive lens.)


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

This will be a great choice and I'll look into it when the prices fall. I only paid about $400 for my frame and progressive lenses.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 3:23 p.m.

"In some cases, if you have a high prescription you're going to pay $900 to $1,000 on a pair of progressive lens, so this is not a big stretch" said Bennett. Nope, I have ALL of the above mentioned issues and never shop for glasses by price. I buy the most expensive frames I like (sans precious metals & jewels) and the thinnest, most durable lenses and I get to about $500. Dr. Bennett you are phishing

Tom Wieder

Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 2:39 p.m.

As someone who wears progressive lenses, is active in sports, and experiences some of the difficulties these glasses are designed to address, I'm glad that ran this story. There's nothing unnewsworthy about interesting new products coming on the market. While the $900-1000 mentioned for progressive lenses is definitely at the higher end, it's not that far above what's typical. This may be a good option for some. To deal with my sports vision needs, I may need to get a second pair of glasses. The cost for those, plus my regular progressives, could hit the $1300 mark, and be less convenient.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 8:55 p.m.

@ leaguebus: One goes on line, checks it out for pros AND cons.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 6:20 p.m.

If there is only one seller, how does one get another point of view?


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

I get it. But if the point of the article is to inform people of a new product on the market, it probably shouldn't come from the point of view of one seller.

tom swift jr.

Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 2:35 p.m.

sh1 nailed it... this isn't a news article, it is an ad. Ethics in journalism has taken a huge dip since the advent of "online" news services. And, to anyone willing to pay $1,300 for a pair of glasses, P. T. Barnum wants to say "thanks" for proving him right! For that price you could probably purchase about 15 pairs of glasses online.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 1:55 p.m.

"In some cases, if you have a high prescription you're going to pay $900 to $1,000 on a pair of progressive lens, so this is not a big stretch" said Bennett. i do not and could be wrong on this. but i do not know of anyone paying $1,000 for progressive lens. not unless you get $400.00 frames. nice idea but sorry not going to pay that much. i think the average person will not. those whom are in busines or have the money will. will be interesting to see how this pans out.


Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

I don't like how, on the newly-designed, you can't tell the articles from the advertisements.

Tony Dearing

Sat, Dec 17, 2011 : 9:33 p.m.

Thanks for raising this issue so that we can clarify it for you. If we do a news story on a new product or service offered by a local business, the story has a byline and the author is identified either as a member of our news staff or a freelance journalist. If paid content appears on our site, there is no byline and the content is clearly identified as "sponsored by'' the advertiser.