Two small companies have been selected to receive grants from the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) in order to create a technology that can help astronauts’ vision issues during missions to space.
LumosTech, Inc., a Stanford University-based startup company, has been developing a programmable mask that uses light therapy during sleep to adjust a person to a new time-zone and eVision Smart Optics, Inc. has been developing electronic smart glasses that can change eye prescriptions, as needed.
Since most astronauts experience vision changes that result in decreased visual acuity during spaceflight, NASA needs the ability to adjust the prescription as needed in real time, and the two companies could create the technology to help.
"Liquid crystal lenses can be reprogrammed electronically to adapt to an astronaut's changing vision. Additionally, the lens can be programmed with far, near and mid-range sections, or with all sections of the lens at a single focal length," says Tony Van Heugten, chief technology officer of eVision Smart Optics.
LumosTech is developing a smart sleep mask that emits pulses of light while the user sleeps, adjusting the user's sleep cycle. "Both astronauts and ground crew are often required to perform mission critical tasks at times that are at odds with their normal sleep/wake cycle. This mask will enable them to shift their normal cycle to ensure that they are alert when needed," says Vanessa Burns, CEO of LumosTech.
The company’s technology is not solely dedicated to astronauts. It can also benefit international business travelers that must rapidly transition into different time zones. By using this sleep mask, travelers may be able to lessen the effects of jet lag.
"LumosTech and eVision Smart Optics are advancing new approaches to solve real problems experienced by astronauts as well as people on Earth. Our job is to accelerate promising technologies by providing seed funding and direction," says Dorit Donoviel, Ph.D., NSBRI deputy chief scientist and industry forum lead.