According to The Nikkei Asian Review, smartphones and PCs may have become an essential part of most people's jobs nowadays, but being glued to a screen for most of your waking life is far from what you would call healthy. However, some eyewear manufacturers have seen the increasing number of people suffering chronic eyestrain as an opportunity.
Paris Miki, a Tokyo-based chain of upmarket eyewear stores has released a product called "Sanso Megane" (oxygen glasses) to break into the so-called "functional eyewear" segment, which until now has been dominated by its rival JIN.
Launched on 27 Nov last year, the glasses supposedly attract oxygen and water vapor to the eyes to prevent dryness and other types of eyestrain. The frame of the new glasses is coated with the company's proprietary technology, a unique light-induced transparent film to create a moistened environment around the eyes.
The film is mainly comprised of titanium oxide which, according to the company, generates electrons and holes left by electron excitation when it reacts with ultraviolet light. These holes in turn react with hydroxide ions, generating oxygen and water vapor around the eyes.
In order to back up its claims, Paris Miki conducted a 24-hour performance test at a public facility. The results did indeed show that oxygen glasses generated higher levels of both oxygen and water vapor surrounding the eyes than regular glasses.
Light-induced transparent films exhibit a paramagnetic property when exposed to light. Since pollen is diamagnetic, the new glasses can also help keep pollen away from the wearer, the company claims.
Moreover, the glasses' oxidative power can supposedly help break down harmful substances, which contributes to an antibacterial effect.
The nose pads are coated with diamondlike carbon, which helps diffuse the heat around the area in direct contact with the skin, which the company says stops makeup from rubbing off so easily.
Oxygen glasses come with the price tag of 5,500 yen (US$46.31) a pair, and the company targets sales of 100,000 pieces in total. Paris Miki will also offer to apply their special coatings to customers' existing glasses.
Paris Miki has cut into the functional eyewear segment with a completely different approach to JIN, another manufacturer that has pioneered the field with JINs PC and JINs Screen, its PC-use glasses. JIN has been a leader in creating demand for functional glasses, which go beyond simply vision correction.
Where Paris Miki highlights the frame coating technology for relieving eyestrain, JIN appeals to consumers with lenses that filter out blue light from PC and smartphone screens. JIN has so far sold a total of more than 6 million units, dominating the market for PC-use glasses, making Paris Miki's different strategy seem like a wise move.
Paris Miki's claims over the health benefits of oxygen glasses may sound impressive, but without firm scientific evidence consumers may well be hesitant.
The company's test results show certain performance improvements when the new product was compared with conventional glasses, but the differences are marginal at best. In the 24-hour performance test, on average, oxygen glasses showed 55.1% humidity while conventional ones 52.4%. The new glasses had saturated water vapor of 11.9 grams per cubic meter while conventional ones had 11.3 grams. The new glasses registered dissolved oxygen of 0.4997 grams per cubic meter, conventional had 0.4746 grams.
With such inconclusive results, consumers are likely to feel the jury is still out on how effective oxygen glasses are. If they are to prove a success, Paris Miki may well need to provide some more convincing data. The company has had the product endorsed by one doctor, but as the head of his own small private eye clinic, that may not be entirely sufficient.
In contrast, JIN has involved several university researchers in the development of its product and has continued to engage with the academic community to carry out further research. The company underscores the effects of its products based on this research. In this regard, Paris Miki lags well behind its rival.
"It is interesting that oxygen glasses offer a completely different solution to ease eyestrain from JINs PC. Although light-induced hydrophilia of titanium oxide has long been known, applying them to glass frames to prevent eyestrain and dry eyes is something quite new," said one scientist.
"The company's data shows that the amounts of oxygen and water vapor increase near the frame area, but we can't tell if that will actually add more oxygen and water vapor to the eyes and help recover from eyestrain."
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