Currently, six out of ten people in fully-developed nations wear eyeglasses, use corrective lenses or have had corrective eye surgery. The global eyewear market, which includes prescription frames, contacts and sunglasses, is worth over $90 billion, and by 2020 that number is expected to jump to $140 billion. Despite how common they are, eyeglasses are still fit onto consumers faces in exactly the same way today as they were fifty years ago, by trying them on and having a technician adjust them until they fit. For an industry of this size to have not incorporated more customization technology is more than a little ridiculous.
However European 3D capture and imaging company Fuel3D was just awarded a major European industry funding grant that could help them modernize how we buy, and fit, eyewear. The European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program has awarded Fuel3D €1.7 million ($1.9 million) in funding to develop a 3D scanning system that will enable full-face capture technology for use in the production of customized eyewear. The funding comes from the “SME instrument” segment of the €80 billion ($89.2 billion) Horizon 2020 program that awards European-based companies with funds to develop innovative and cutting edge technology products.
The full-face capture technology being developed by Fuel3D, that they are calling Project 2SEVENTY, will be capable of capturing a fully-accurate 3D model in a single scan. The goal is to improve customer satisfaction with eyewear, reduce discomfort caused by the misalignment of the lenses to the eyes and lower the number of returns by unhappy customers. The technology will need to be both cost-effective and simple to operate and integrate into existing workflows. Fuel3D’s proposed technology combines pre-calibrated stereo cameras and photometric imaging capable of instantly capturing and processing a 270-degree 3D scan of the customer’s face. The 3D scan will allow accurate measurements of the head and face to be taken so glasses can be custom fit. The system will also compensate for movement and blinking by capturing the necessary data in under 0.1 seconds.
“We are delighted to have secured Horizon 2020 SME instrument funding for this project. We believe that the eyewear sector will benefit greatly from the advances we have made in fast, measurable 3D image capture, and we are looking forward to building a system that will help set new fitting standards and revenue models in the industry,” said Fuel3D CEO, Stuart Mead.
Fuel3D will be putting together an advisory panel of industry experts ranging from opticians to eyewear manufacturers who will provide them with industry-specific knowledge that will help ensure the success of the project. Companies or individuals looking to be part of the Project 2SEVENTY panel should contact Fuel3D.
“We have already had many interesting conversations with eyewear industry leaders and the formalisation of our advisory panel will help us progress towards defining new standards in both technology and customer service,” said Fuel3D’s project manager Alex McGrath.
Fuel3D’s Project 2SEVENTY will be a two-year process, with the first year being devoted to the development of the prototype system, perfecting the software and optimizing the hardware. The second year of the project will see Fuel3D moving into the product manufacturing phase. They will also focus on developing partners within the eyewear sector and integrate their technology with existing third-party systems, including systems that include the production of custom-fit eyewear and “virtual try-on” technology. Discuss this grant and project further over in the Fuel3D Receives Grant for 3D Scanning Technology forum over at 3DPB.com.