Tech Specs

Glasses that may ease the pain of too much screen time.

March/April 2011

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Tech Specs

Courtesy Gunnar Optiks

You've spent your day staring at spreadsheets, making sure your boss has all the budget info he needs to save your job. Unfortunately, your eyes feel like sandpaper. Meanwhile, your teenage son is seeing the world through a filmy haze because he was up all night playing Call of Duty on his laptop.

Specialty eyewear maker Gunnar Optiks believes it can help you, your kid and the legions of others who spend hours daily peering at digital content. The San Diego company, co-founded in 2006 by Joe Croft, '92, creates glasses designed to reduce discomfort from prolonged screen use. "We're shaking up an industry," declares Croft, who earned his engineering degree in Stanford's product design program.

Croft's boast centers on a proprietary combination of lens materials and coatings that aim to diminish glare, reflection and color distortion. The specifications can be configured to provide maximum viewing benefit at arm's length or closer distances, and most options can be applied in conjunction with a prescription. In addition, the glasses are touted as trapping humidity to keep eyes moist. Lightweight frames with comfortable contours are part of the concept. Prices range from $80 to $200 for nonprescription lenses.

A happy consumer will report clearer overall vision with better resolution and less eye fatigue—not to mention feeling tech-slick and geek-stylish about his or her new specs. But Croft acknowledges that different people can have different reactions to how effective the glasses are, and the company isn't immune to a harsh review, such one in the New York Times by David Pogue in 2008.

"We've seen detractors, but they are few and far between," says Croft, pointing to "hundreds of thousands" of customers since the company's relatively recent inception. Its investors include PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, '89, JD '92, the Carl Zeiss Vision firm and rapper-actor-gamer 50 Cent, and it has a branding tie-in with Major League Gaming (professional video-gaming).

"The biggest motivator for me," Croft says, "comes from the letters we receive that speak of how we've changed somebody's life. Whether it's a creative artist that wants to spend more time on her art, or a researcher that needs more time analyzing data on the screen, we let people do more of what they want to do online."

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