Israeli tech focuses on a sharper pair of glasses

Multifocal-busting technology and more will be on display at this year’s Israel Machine Vision Conference

The DeepOptics Omnifocal solution (photo credit: Courtesy)
The DeepOptics Omnifocal solution (photo credit: Courtesy)

As the population in many affluent Western countries ages, it’s a sure bet that the eyewear business will remain a growth industry. And the older people get, the greater the likelihood they will need multifocal specs to correct nearsightedness and mid- or long-range vision, compensating for the loss of vision focus common among the elderly.

Proper multifocal use requires aiming the eyes at different sections of the lenses — the “near” or “distant” focus parts, depending on what the wearer is looking at — and some people never really learn the art of focus adjustment necessary for a successful multifocal experience.

For them, electronic lenses developed by Israeli start-up DeepOptics may be an option. Using sensors, the glasses detect what the eye is focusing on as well as the viewing distance — adjusting the power of the glasses to ensure that whatever is being looked at comes into focus, whether near or far.

Thus, instead of limiting vision to just a small area of the specs — the near- or far-sight areas of the multifocal lenses — the DeepOptics Omnifocal solution lets wearers use the entire field of view of the eyeglasses, giving the wearer a constantly sharp and clear image, just like someone with perfect vision would have.

The DeepOptics solution is just one example of what has become a burgeoning tech business in Israel over the past decade. In fact, the machine-vision business has borne some of Israel’s most successful products — the MobilEye road safety system and the Microsoft Kinect 3D motion system.

These two companies have been among the most successful in Israeli tech history. The crash-warning system by MobilEye — which went public last year — is Israel’s biggest-ever IPO, and is now standard on 2015 cars by almost all of the world’s major car manufacturers. And, PrimeSense was bought in 2013 by Apple for $350 million — but not before it supplied the 3D technology for the Kinect game system, made by Microsoft.

DeepOptics, along with many cutting-edge companies, will be at the sixth annual Israel Machine Vision Conference (IMVC) in Tel Aviv next week.

“We actually had PrimeSense showing off its 3D tech at the first conference, and we’ve gone on to even greater accomplishments in this field, of which Israel has become one of the world’s leaders,” , said Dr. Chen Sagiv, co-founder and co-CEO of Sagiv Tech and one of the organizers of the conference.

Last year, 1,000 people attended the IMVC conference, and even more are expected this year, added Sagiv. Speakers include top researchers and executives in the industry, including Dr. James Fung, software lead of Google’s Project Tango 3D scanning platform; Dr. Dov Katz, head of computer vision at Oculus, the maker of virtual reality headsets; Professor Shmuel Peleg of Hebrew University, who developed the technology of two successful Israeli machine-vision start-ups; and Roy Orfaig, head of image processing at Israel Aerospace Industries.

Chen Sagiv (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Chen Sagiv (photo credit: Courtesy)

IAI was one of the first Israeli companies working in machine vision (MV), developing optics systems and cameras for satellites, drones and defense systems. Until recently, defense was the main focus of MV tech.

Over the past five years, many new uses have been found for MV, including virtual reality, 3D and medical devices. There, too, MV has been the basis of the success of one of the biggest Israeli medical device companies — Given Imaging, which developed the miniature camera PillCam, which takes images from inside the body and transmits them to a monitor.

An Israeli start-up that hopes to repeat Given Imaging’s success is Biop Medical, a cloud-connected medical device that takes images of the inside of a woman’s cervix, with the images analyzed for the presence of cervical cancer on a remote server. Results are returned a few minutes later, so that the care provider and the patient get immediate results.

According to the company, tests in clinics in the US and Europe show that the results are at least 90% accurate, on the first test — a much better rate than can be achieved with traditional colposcopy devices.

Biop will also be presenting its technology at IMVC, as part of a start-up contest that, in addition to DeepOptics, includes these companies: Ogmint, which has developed an augmented reality system to allow users to see how they will look wearing clothing online; InfinityAR, makers of small cameras that can be attached to any device to turn it into a 3D device; and WakingApp, a virtual reality platform that lets users turn social media feeds, games and mobile websites into an app that can take advantage of augmented reality devices like Google Glass.

WakingApp was the winner of the recent IBM Europe Smart Camp competition; it beat out 180 app-making competitors. Among the company’s customers are Samsung, Nestlé, ISUZU, IBM, Amdocs, Migros Switzerland, Toy’r’Us and others.

Besides medical devices and security, machine vision will play an important role in yet another life-saving area, according to Dr. Koby Cohen, CTO of Medymatch and a co-organizer of IMVC.

“In the coming years, we will see this technology being used in many different ways, even to help grow crops,” said Cohen. “Within a few years, I am sure we will be using drones in agriculture, with devices flying over crops in fields and hothouses, taking images and analyzing them to see how well they are growing, what nutrients they are lacking.”

“Israel has developed a lot of the technology used in machine vision today, and there is no doubt it will continue to be a leader in this area in years to come,” continued Cohen.

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