Myopia, or nearsightedness, is an ailment that affects billions of people around the world. As the time we spend focused on digital devices increases, its prevalence is on the rise. The World Health Organization has announced that by 2050, about half the global population will be myopic and 10 percent of those people will have high myopia, which carries the greatest risk of visual impairment.
Aiming to combat this trend is a recently developed product called Kubota Glass, an augmented reality device that addresses myopia by stimulating the retina directly with customized images projected by micro-LEDs. The technology behind the product is the brainchild of Dr Ryo Kubota, a renowned ophthalmologist whose previous research led to the discovery of myocilin, the glaucoma gene.
Kubota explains that myopia is caused in part by a deformation of the eyeball from a spherical shape to a more elongated one. While there are various methods for correcting myopia—such as LASIK or surgically implantable lenses—he explains that these methods don’t address the excessive eye elongation associated with myopia. It is this elongation that increases risk for visual impairment from associated conditions such as retinal detachment.
In Plain Sight
Kubota says that some of the concepts behind Kubota Glass are based on recent studies that have shown that, even for adults, spending more than two hours per day outdoors can help combat myopia. One theory behind this research is that both the bright intensity and broad spectrum of light encountered outdoors have positive effects on the eyes. In addition, because objects encountered in indoor environments tend to be closer to the viewer, spending time outside exposes the eyes to objects that are farther away.
“By wearing these glasses, your eyes will feel like they are outdoors and getting a broader spectrum of light,” Kubota explains. “And the glasses also project a peripherally defocused image in front of the retina. The retina tends to detect the image in front of it, so it tries to focus on those projected objects, a process called myopic defocus.
By projecting the defocused image to the periphery, the retina tends to get pulled back,” he adds. “The effect is like that of braces for your teeth. It helps to make the retinal curvature round again, instead of this oblique shape.” The glasses are meant to be worn for one to two hours every day.
Kubota Glass is sold throughout Asia, and Kubota has already heard from some users that it has helped to slow or stop the progression of their myopia. He hopes not only to continue to get the product to more people who want to take care of their vision, but also to partner with tech manufacturers that are producing augmented reality devices.