Glasses that Give You Eyes in the Back of Your Head

Using technology borrowed from lighthouses, a student designs glasses that could aid both competitive athletes and urban bike riders.


Student concepts usually fall well short of either marketability or feasibility. But Billy May, who just graduated from college last year, created a concept which clears both hurdles: A set of eyeglasses that increases the wearer’s peripheral vision, thanks to technology used in lighthouses.


May created the glasses as a fantasy product for Nike, though the company was unaffiliated with their development. That said, if we were product developers at Nike, we’d be in hot pursuit of this one. The glasses extend the wearer’s peripheral vision by 25% on each side–and that would be a massive help to urban cyclists, and almost any other competitive athlete: Cyclists, swimmers, runners, and horse jockeys all depend heavily on peripheral vision, to gauge their competitors. 

They work using Fresnel lenses, which were first invented for use in lighthouses, where the ridged profile allowed thinner glass to be used in magnifying light; thus, the light could shine both wider and farther, since it wasn’t being dimmed by thick glass. Today, Fresnel lenses show up in all kinds of places, from traffic lights to overhead projectors.

May’s invention calls for the lenses to be used at the outside corners of a pair of sports glasses. While they might distort images, that’s not important to peripheral vision, since in the corners of eyes, we only detect motion. Using these, May believes the field of vision would be even greater than the 120-degree arc that’s typical for humans–allowing eyesight that’s very nearly “in the back of your head.” (As Gizmag notes, it’s a whole hell of a lot cooler than lame previous efforts at see-behind glasses.)

While it might seem like you could easy get as much functionality by turning your head to avoid situations like the one below, that basically misses the point. Having 25% vision on either side at all times is surely a large enough boon to prevent some serious injuries–or to get caught on the outside, by a sneaky pass. Get to work on a prototype, Billy!



LightLane, the Bike Lane That Rides With You: Now a Reality


[Via Gizmag]


About the author

Cliff was director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.