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Eye health industry looks to innovative eyewear for market growth

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In the eye health industry, eyewear has always been significant in raising awareness and promoting eye protection and safety.

The global sunglasses market, estimated to reach $23.52 billion (£18.89 billion) in 2023, is anticipated to continue at a compound annual growth rate of 5.6 per cent from 2024 to 2030.

Some of the many factors contributing to the rising popularity of eyewear include the detrimental impacts of UV radiation and the heightened risk of various conditions it may cause, including corneal sunburns and diseases like cataracts and eye cancers.

Another key factor driving the market growth is increased investment in innovation and technology.

Many eyewear brands and tech companies have started working together to create new and exciting features and specs.

In October 2023, Zuckerberg’s Meta and leading eyewear brand Ray-Ban partnered up to introduce the Ray-Ban Meta smart glasses, which heavily feature AI technology.

Innovations in eyewear

Before the leap to smart glasses and AI in eyewear, the industry experimented with various eyewear-related technologies.

The rise of prescription sunglasses helped combine vision correction properties offered by regular eyeglasses with much-needed 100% UV and sun protection from sunglasses.

This eliminated the need for people to switch between their regular prescription glasses and sunglasses.

Leading eyewear brand Ray-Ban, for example, has a variety of Aviator prescription sunglasses, including the New Aviator, which features an upgraded silhouette.

Other similar innovations include transition lenses, which use special lens coatings that allow clear lenses to automatically shift to tinted ones based on the light conditions they are exposed to.

Transition lenses are a great option for people who may be spending the day going in and out of places, as the lenses will adjust accordingly without requiring constant switching.

One of the leading brands in this space is Transitions, which popularised the lens technology.

Innovations have also led to new methods of eyewear manufacturing.

Nowadays, many brands and manufacturers are offering 3D-printed glasses that use alternative materials.

These glasses often use polyamide powder hardened with a laser, which only consumes the material required to form the product, resulting in reduced waste.

In fact, the 3D-printed eyewear market is experiencing rapid growth as it allows for more experimental designs and silhouettes, including bespoke eyewear for children or high-fashion purposes.

Digital integrations in eyewear

Beyond innovations in lens technologies, the eyewear industry has also increased its interest in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality.

In a previous post, we wrote about XRAI Glass’ smart glasses that use phone-tethered augmented reality to display closed captioning for the wearer.

This is especially useful for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. The glasses convert audio into subtitles that are augmented on the glasses’ built-in screen.

Nowadays, augmented reality glasses have become increasingly popular as they can display a lot of valuable information.

Aside from the abovementioned subtitles, some companies and eyewear manufacturers have started integrating augmented reality to display navigation.

Some AR glasses also use their lenses as mini-monitors to display various things, like the surgeon who recently used the Apple Vision Pro to assist him in surgery.

Finally, there are also the 32°N reading glasses from Deep Optics, framed like Wayfarers and combining features from reading glasses and sunglasses.

Wearers can adjust settings by swiping their finger on the frame, which changes the millions of tiny pixels in the lenses, making close objects come into focus.

This is one of many initiatives in the reading glasses sector attempting to combine new technologies with lens design to allow wearers to modify lens focal lengths as needed.

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