The sci-fi challenge of unlosable eyewear Thursday, 06 April 2017

News article written by Corbett Communications. The statements made or opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Engineers Australia.

Imagine never losing your glasses ever again. For some people that’s a very big deal and it was something electrical and electronics engineer, Allen Liao, experienced first-hand that ultimately impacted on his life in a way he couldn’t have envisaged. 

While still at university, Liao borrowed a friend’s expensive sunglasses and lost them. What was an unfortunate accident-turned-serendipity and became the seminal moment for the founding of Tzukuri, a high-tech eyewear company that produces unlosable glasses.

The Sydney-based start-up’s handmade glasses have 39 electronic components hidden inside hooked up to an iOS app via bluetooth technology and will alert the user if the eyewear has been left behind. The technology records their last GPS location and shows proximity when searching for them indoors. But what is really interesting is its electronics were designed by Genesys Electronics Design, the firm founded by the Past Immediate Chair of the ITEE College, Geoff Sizer, who is also its CEO.

“The Tzukuri glasses were a unique, almost sci-fi-like challenge,” Genesys COO Jon Eggins told Monitor. “The electronics are ultra-miniaturised, and battery-powered. In fact, the electronics were so small that being able to connect a production programming jig to them was a major design challenge.”

Weighing just 26.5 grams, the eyewear is a classic, simple design and made of cellulose acetate (100% renewable and recyclable natural biopolymer manufactured from cotton and wood pulp), but belies the amount of technology involved.

Incorporating electronics inside a pair of glasses required a complete redesign of the eyewear manufacturing process, Liao revealed, with each pair requiring 37 stages, 10 hand-finishing steps and 10 working days to complete.

"There was a lot of work in [the] design, working out what materials to use and what lenses to use," Liao told the SMH recently. "If you look at technology like your phone, it is made from lots of different components. But when you make a pair of glasses you only have three pieces to work with. We invented a new process to seal the electronics inside one piece of material which allows us to make a very light pair of glasses."

The glasses are charged using an included charging dock. A specially formatted silver zinc batter delivers up to 30 days battery life on a single charge. Tzukuri stated the silver delivers “remarkable safety performance” compared to lithium batteries.

The first run of 320 pairs of glasses were handmade in Australia and the start-up is currently looking for manufacturers as there are plans to open three stores in this country by September. And 26-year-old Liao is rubbing shoulders with some international heavyweights interested in his vision such as former Apple illuminati, actor Stephen Fry, and has backers from Aesop, Tyro, and Planet Labs, so he’ll probably do it.

It’s testament to the ‘why not?’ attitude of Australian engineers and what a young and ambitious electrical and electronics engineering student did while finishing his degree.

"You have to love it," Liao said. "Starting a company where you are making the physical product, especially electronics, is so hard that you have to have a great passion for whatever you are doing otherwise you will give up."

Author: Desi Corbett


Image: Tzukuri unlosable eyewear whose electronics were designed bt Genesys Electronics Design. Source: Tzukuri

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