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I'm wondering if it is theoretically possible to construct a lens that overlays directly on top of a watch (or phone) that warps the image in the same way that reading glasses (much farther away) would so that people with presbyopia could clearly see high resolution (or small) screens without reading glasses.

As I was researching this, I found: Screen distort for corrective lens, which has a comment that seems to be related, but the technology it references isn't really a lens, and doesn't appear to be available.

I'm guessing that an additional benefit from such a system would be that people without presbyopia or people looking at the watch from a different angle would see a highly distorted image, making it also act as a sort of privacy filter.

Would the lens need to be so large that it would be impractical? Would a fresnel lens work?

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Such a device needs to correct the optical path from the lens all the way to your retina. If the lens isn't fixed to your head, this path is also not fixed. A static "lens" of this type would only work if your eye were in exactly one place relative to it. The farther it is from your eye, the less play you have in the location of the image.

It would probably be easier today to have the image beamed directly onto your retina using a camera and a controllable laser. (Although I suspect getting that to work using a device that isn't mounted on your head is also extremely difficult).

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lenses in the form of thin sheets that can be stuck to other transparent things are available, they are called fresnel lenses.

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