One aspect of our industry that has caught my attention over the last few years is how many innovative new products are emerging in to the market. Sure, new products have always been a catalyst for our industry, but in the last few years, there have been some real game changers.

What makes a product a game changer? In my mind, the criterion for this would be that the product cuts new technological ground and may even set a whole new product category. This kind of real innovation doesn’t come down the street often and when it does, it’s worth noticing. Some of the game changers in the past were automatic bevel edgers, patternless edgers, CR-39® plastic lens material, and progressive addition lenses, Optyl frame material, and Flexon flexible titanium frames. These innovations and many more have helped move the making and selling of eyewear in new directions. This is why they are important to all of us.

Recent potential game changers include Transitions Optical’s new photochromic polarized lens known as Vantage™. It’s a clear lens replacement that provides variable polarization and photochromic properties. This means that as the lens gets darker, it also increases its polarization. Sure, there are other photochromic polarized lenses on the market, but all of them turn from dark to darker; none of them become clear indoors, and Vantage does this without a polarizing film like other lenses. For more information, see “Making the Impossible Possible,” in Lenses.

Pixel Optics continues to amaze the industry with its electroic eyewear. Promoted as the world’s first electronic eyeglasses, emPower! uses a liquid crystal reading zone that can be turned on and off manually or automatically. Because of this, the progressive lens that carries the reading zone features only distance and intermediate powers, so it has low levels of astigmatism.

While the category of virtual eyewear try-on has been around for many years, the category has morphed into a breed of devices that enable electronic try-on, demos, patient information, electronic measurements, patient education, and more. While it’s hard to say which product spawned this new breed of devices, the category received a real shot in the arm last year when LensCrafters announced that it was putting four or five of these devices into every office. That will put pressure on every eyecare professionals’ office to have a similar device in their dispensary.

Qspex’s new lens casting system, lenses that use wavefront technology to control aberrations, and other new products have the potential to change the game of eyewear dispensing. It’s anybody’s guess what will be coming out next that might change the way we prescribe and dispense eyewear.

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