When it comes to digital performance eyewear, all roads lead to Del Mar based Gunnar Optics. The category doesn't even exist yet in the eyewear industry, which makes the founders of the company very excited.
Designed to address eye problems associated with extended periods of time in front of a computer screen, Gunnar's founders say that they've developed a product that has been optimized to enhance the computer experience by helping users be more productive for longer periods of time and protect them against the harmful effects of viewing a computer screen, PDA or handheld device.
Joe Croft, Co-founder of Gunnar said that there are two categories of negative effects. One are the short term effects called digital eye fatigue, which is generally characterized by eye strain, headaches, blurry vision, problems focusing, dry or scratchy eyes, pain around the eye and posture related problems.
Left untreated, these symptoms can progress into computer vision syndrome. Currently CVS is the number one occupational complaint of office workers for the last three years running, outstripping carpel tunnel syndrome, according to the National Health and Safety Statistics.
The American Optometric Association estimates that 10 million Americans suffer from CVS. The AOA reported that upwards of 125 million cases of CVS go unreported each year. Estimates predict that 80 percent of computer users will eventually have some form of computer related eye problems.
According to Croft, what Gunnar's lens technology does is pre-focus the light so that the eye doesn't have to flex too much. They've engineered a tint that balances the color spectrum by getting rid of some of the harsh light and putting it in a zone that is much better for the eye to absorb. The shape of the glasses is designed to cut down on air currents helping to prevent dry eyes by maintaining some of the humidity around the eye. An anti-glare coating was designed to work specifically with computer monitors, which helps users focus on just the light that comes from the computer and not from reflective lighting. The last feature is ergonomics. The lightweight of the frame makes them very comfortable and stylish to wear.
"There has been a huge amount of miniaturization that's taken place," said Croft. "Text sizes have gotten smaller, especially on PDAs and handhelds. That's why we are convinced that we can give people a visual advantage with help from eyewear, which actually enhances the computing experience."
Gunnar's founders are not alone in their belief that the company's product line will be the newest tech gadget that all computer users must have. So far they've raised over $6 million in start up capital from some savvy investors such as the Jacobs family from Qualcomm and Peter Teal, of PayPal.
Co-founder Jenny Michelsen said that she became concerned when her son Gunnar started to show interest in computers and video games.
"Kids are starting earlier and are going to be on the computer for longer periods of time," she said. "If you're making your child use a seat belt, sun screen and feeding them the right foods, you absolutely should be protecting their vision."
Technical advisor Jeffrey Anshel, who helped develop the technology behind the lens, said that he has been working with people who suffer from computer vision problems since 1990. He has been lecturing on the subject since CVS was designated by the AOA. "Generally magnification doesn't fix the problem," he said. "We've put together some significant variables that have shown to be very positive in the work place." Anshel recommends that everyone have a regular eye exam and stresses that they are very important.
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