How many progressive lens designs do you think are on the market today? 25? 50? 150? Actually, more than 350 different PALs (Progressive Addition Lenses) are now available, according to The Vision Council. That’s an astounding amount of variety, even taking into account the knock offs and older designs still out there.

I’d argue that this high level of diversity in the PALs market is good for both ECPs and consumers. It means there’s lots of competition, which stimulates growth. The continuing refinement of digital lens design technology has insured a seemingly endless flow of new PAL designs. Some are incremental improvements over existing designs, while others are original designs created to perform specific visual tasks. Just think of PALs that are designed for driving cars or looking at smartphones or tablets.

Technology can be an equalizer, and in the case of PALs, it has encouraged independent lens designers to compete with the major lens companies. But the success of any technology depends upon who is wielding it. Although it’s technically possible for anyone with the right software and a basic understanding of ophthalmic optics to design a progressive lens, it doesn’t guarantee stellar results.

That only comes from experience, both on the part of the lens designer and the clinical data gathered from the experience of those who have worn the lens. In fact, new research into wearers’ visual behavior is what advances PAL design. One promising new development in this area involves the use of artificial intelligence to analyze visual behavior.

The evolution and improvement of PALs is evidence of the creativity and innovative spirit that characterizes the best of our industry. Let’s hope the PALs market remains robust for a long time to come.