One Portfolio for a Whole Lifetime

8 July 2020

In a world dominated by smartphone use, visual behavior and vision needs have changed. Providing good, comfortable vision in our modern, connected, mobile lives demands innovation in eyeglass lenses — the human eye simply isn't designed for the digital era. To meet the visual challenges of our day, ZEISS researchers have developed a completely new portfolio designed for wearers of all lens types: ZEISS SmartLife.

Since the founding of ZEISS Vision Care and the launch of the Punktal brand eyeglass lens in 1912, ZEISS has rarely introduced an entire new portfolio of eyeglass lenses at once. This is because each portfolio comprises thousands of individual products for near and far-sightedness, for age-related vision correction, for those who would prefer to live without progressive lenses, as well as for unique and individual vision-related defects of the human eye.

But this isn't the only thing that makes ZEISS SmartLife unique. The new premium portfolio, which will be available in Germany, Austria and Switzerland starting 2020, is designed to accommodate the needs of a markedly broad target group with a different perspective in mind — in the truest sense of the word. Never before in the history of eyeglass manufacturing has a shift in the vision needs and demands of eyeglass wearers been so pronounced and so fast as in recent years.

Smartphones have brought about an entirely new way of living and a new form of visual behavior that spans all ages. Smartphones are being used more frequently and for longer periods of time, and they demand our attention at all hours of the day. The smartphone's enormous significance, as well as the use of myriad mobile streaming, social media and messaging services, can be seen in all areas of life and all types of everyday situations. Smartphones help us with nearly everything. They entertain, provide information and reminders, and they facilitate communication. Today, carpal tunnel syndrome is being diagnosed in thumbs on account of excessive WhatsApp use, and wearing the wrong glasses at your desk (or none at all) is now no longer the only cause of neck pain. Before smartphones, checking Facebook messages was an activity performed at home after work. Today, people of all ages are messaging friends and family on the subway and scrolling through Instagram Stories on the street.

"We are all familiar with the inner compulsion to regularly look at our smartphone display in the hope of finding new messages or information. Our mobile devices are with us at all times, and this is something we need to adjust for in many aspects of our lives," says Joachim Kuss, Head of Communications, ZEISS Consumer Markets Segment. In addition to our connected lifestyles, smartphones have also enabled us to be more mobile. "We are on the go much of the time, rapidly and frequently alternating our gaze between distant and near objects, for example between our mobile phones and the street." Modern premium eyeglass lenses need to take all of these factors, and naturally also the individual needs of the wearer, into account.

The contents of our pockets are changing our gaze behavior

The impact that smartphones are having on our vision, and the demands they are placing on our eyes, are significant — the tiny devices we carry around in our pockets all day have changed our gaze and visual behavior. The extent of this change has been so great that ZEISS researchers have continued to discover needs for a new range of eyeglass lenses in the five years since research into ZEISS SmartLife began. The newly developed premium lenses, ranging from single vision to progressive, are designed to meet the needs of smartphone users of all ages, providing opticians with a product which is easy to explain and which employs the latest ophthalmological technology while also taking into account the demands of smartphone use and the physiological changes to the eyes brought about by aging. "ZEISS SmartLife is based not only on optical theory, but also on intensive research into today's gaze and vision behavior, which has very little in common with that of the pre-smartphone era," stresses Joachim Kuss. Since the introduction of the ZEISS Digital Lenses for pre-presbyopes and heavy smartphone use and the Digital Inside technology, which enables all ZEISS progressive lenses to be optimized for the digital era, ZEISS has been gaining practical experience, conducting development and research, and working closely with universities in America, Europe and Asia. This has led to numerous discoveries relevant to designing the eyeglass lens of the 21st century.

Even before ZEISS researchers began collecting data and publishing papers, the iPhone and its Android counterparts were already well on their way to achieving a level of global success which is nearly unsurpassable in today's world. A brief history of the device that changed the world. The first iPhone was released in the United States in 2007 and first became available in Europe ten months later. At that time, ZEISS' i.Scription technology made it possible to use wavefront measurements to take account of the patient’s eye profiles for individualized eyeglass lens calculations. When we look back at the last 25 years, we see just how quickly things move in the modern era and how vision care is impacted by different changes. While this may prove to be a manageable exercise for scientists, it also illustrates just how unbelievable the developments are that have taken place in the last five years, the period in which the smartphone achieved its current significance and ZEISS found an answer to the challenges this new technology poses to human vision.

From the first WAP mobile phone to ZEISS Gradal Individual

One portfolio for a whole lifetime

In 1994, when consumers were still being explained the difference between curved and straight near portions on bifocal lenses, IMB released the Simon Personal Computer, a device weighing half a kilogram and featuring a low resolution, 160 x 293 pixel display with virtually no contrast. Two years later, Nokia followed with the Nokia 9000 Communicator, which enabled users to send and receive faxes. In 1999 Nokia released the WAP mobile phone, which, like its predecessor, came outfitted with an address book, a calculator and a calendar. For the first time ever, it was possible to visit websites designed specifically for being viewed on the device. One year later, the ZEISS Gradal Individual was released — the first customized ZEISS progressive lens, enabled by ZEISS Freeform Technology and featuring dioptric power and capable of having individual customer and adjustment parameters incorporated into the calculation of the progressive surface of the lens.

By this time, the impact that the boom in technological development would have on mobile phones was foreseeable. At the same time, rapid improvements in the research, development and production capabilities for eyeglass lenses were picking up pace at ZEISS Vision Care. With the arrival of the new millennium, the challenges posed by digitalization and the rising use of laptops and computers were growing slowly but steadily. In 2012 the ZEISS Office Lens was released, which featured a technology developed by ZEISS that enabled wearers to choose the maximum viewing distance needed in a given space. These lenses met a growing demand for solutions capable of addressing the increased amount of time that wearers were spending in front of the computer and the related changes in the demands placed on human vision, at least while performing desk work.

Two years later, ZEISS launched a new category of lenses designed for mobile device users in need of something more than single strength lenses, but who felt themselves to be too young for progressive lenses. At the same time that the ZEISS Digital Lenses were being introduced, ZEISS researchers began studying in more detail the demands that smartphones place on vision in order to provide a response to the demand for adequate solutions to the under-researched needs of mobile phone users. In 2015, the ZEISS progressive lens portfolio was redesigned as well to account for adaptations of the human eye to the digital world. Since the success of digital devices was impacting all age groups — persons with age-related vision problems, for example, see better and more comfortably with lenses designed for use with digital devices too — the redesign also took into account the change of viewing distances in the near due to more frequent smartphone use.

This would serve as the foundation for ZEISS SmartLife, the logical next step in the development of the ZEISS portfolio, which has always focused on the needs of people. ZEISS SmartLife has incorporated ZEISS' many years of experience with the needs of eyeglass wearers in the digital, global era, as well as findings from fundamental, application-inspired research performed at the ZEISS Vision Science Lab at the University of Tübingen.

Smartphones demand the attention of everyone, regardless of age

Wearers of progressive lenses aren't the only ones whose vision behavior is being impacted by smartphone use today. While the age of the wearer does play a role in the process of custom manufacturing ZEISS SmartLife lenses, no age group is an exception when it comes to today's dynamic lifestyles, rapid gaze switching and the change in near vision behavior when using a smartphone. Smartphones demand the attention of everyone, regardless of age. They bring with them entirely new challenges, new postures and new movements. Dynamic vision has changed, and peripheral vision is becoming increasingly important during smartphone use, which is why the edges of ZEISS SmartLife lenses are optimized accordingly. Even reading distances are different on smartphones, with users now typically holding the phone at a distance of 32 centimeters as compared to the concrete minimum reading distance of 40 centimeters.

Smartphones and gaze behavior
Smartphones and gaze behavior

Smartphones significantly impact gaze distribution

Smartphones significantly impact gaze distribution

These new conditions make it clear why a completely new portfolio of eyeglass lenses is needed for today's gaze behavior. A lens for single vision, digital and progressive glasses designed with accommodation in mind and equipped to handle rapid changes in gaze and frequent glances at one's smartphone, which allows the wearer to use more of the lens surface, and which takes into account the angled gaze through the lower segment of the lens. A design which requires no replacement, even as the wearer's lens values and eye performance change with age. "Today, we know a lot more about old age and the aging eye. And we also know much more about vision itself than ever before," says Joachim Kuss. While age used to play a crucial role in choosing eyeglass lenses, today focus has shifted to visual requirements which are common to everyone, with the individual age of the wearer being taken into account. Hence, in the individual calculation and manufacture of ZEISS SmartLife lenses, age-related changes to pupil size are taken into account with unprecedented levels of accuracy.

One portfolio for a whole lifetime

The new global marketing campaign for ZEISS SmartLife Lenses creatively showcases one main product advantage – the wide fields of view while being connected and on-the-move – illustrating that life is much more than the screens in front of us.

For this reason, ZEISS has also redesigned its single vision lenses to meet new requirements. ZEISS SmartLife single vision lenses are optimized for distance and near vision. In the past, single vision lenses were calculated to allow for unlimited distances, that is, for distance viewing. But smartphones have changed how vision behaves at close ranges. When we glance briefly at our smartphones, we don't move our heads immediately; rather, the eyes move downward, and the head follows only if the gaze is held on the phone for a longer period of time.

With ZEISS SmartLife, the single vision lenses in ZEISS' new portfolio feature 88 % larger clear fields of view1. For wearers whose eyesight has not yet been impacted by age, ZEISS SmartLife lenses provide gentle assistance for near vision, so that later in life it can prevent the eyes from being stressed unnecessarily and can provide improved comfort for close-range activities.

The results of in-depth research enable ZEISS Vision Care to consistently take into account the impact of age on vision in the design of ZEISS SmartLife. These changes are incorporated into the custom manufacture of ZEISS SmartLife lenses, as is the new definition of the relationship between object distance and vertical gaze through the lens. ZEISS SmartLife progressive lenses feature smooth vision from near to far across all viewing zones2, which enhances wearer satisfaction and makes the adjustment period much shorter. In comprehensive tests, eight out of ten wearers were able to adjust to the progressive lenses within a single day3. The entire portfolio is backed by easy-to-understand and useful products and solutions for consumers. Simple and recurring questions during eye care professionals (ECP) consulting make the selection and sale of lenses easier than configuring a car. In the future, a simple formula will enable the ECP, as well as the wearer, to select the right lenses: former lens solution + age + individual vision needs. Using the results of the wearer's personal vision test, the optician will be able to select the ideal lens from the ZEISS SmartLife portfolio in each and every case – without needing to be familiar with any complicated product names or brands. Of course, like with each ZEISS lens, each clear, non-tinted ZEISS SmartLife lens also provides full UV protection up to 400 nanometers.

Good vision has never been about lenses alone. With the introduction of new technology, ZEISS Vision Care has been able to optimize its products to meet the needs of the wearer's eyes. Freeform and wavefront technology have made it possible for ZEISS to take the user's individual needs into consideration. The ZEISS SmartLife portfolio takes this one step further, with a design built to address the vision challenges of our time and the constant demand for our attention. One portfolio, for a whole lifetime.

Gradal, i.Scription and SmartLife are registered trademarks of Carl Zeiss Vision GmbH.


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Portrait Joachim Kuss
Press contact Joachim Kuss General Topics and Sustainability

ZEISS Vision Care

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  • 1

    Analyses by Technology & Innovation, ZEISS Vision Care, DE

  • 2

    External consumer acceptance test on the ZEISS SmartLife Lens portfolio, n=82 study participants. Aston Optometry School, Aston University, UK, 2019.

  • 3

    External consumer acceptance test on the ZEISS SmartLife Lens portfolio, n=82 study participants. Aston Optometry School, Aston University, UK, 2019.