Burdened With Debt, PixelOptics Files Chapter 7

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ROANOKE, Va.— PixelOptics, Inc., which pioneered electronic focusing eyewear, announced Friday that it is shutting its doors and filing Chapter 7.

In a statement to VMail, the Roanoke-based company said that approximately three to four weeks ago it ran into “severe financial difficulty having no liquidity and burdened with significant debt. The company has exhausted all of its options to remain viable going forward. The company anticipates interest in its assets following the filing.”

PixelOptics is filing for Chapter 7 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del. Under the terms of the bankruptcy, the court will appoint an executor who will oversee liquidation of the company’s assets, most notably an intellectual property portfolio of over 400 patents and patent applications, many of which involve electronic focusing eyewear.

As PixelOptics’ financial situation became increasingly dire, a number of key employees were terminated. PixelOptics president and CEO Brett Craig exited the company on Oct. 7. Craig, a former president of Transitions Optical who had headed PixelOptics since December, 2011, could not be reached for comment.

PixelOptics attracted widespread attention from both the trade and consumer media when it launched emPower, the first-ever electronic focusing eyewear, in 2011. The lenses, which used proprietary electronics from Panasonic mounted into frames made by Aspex Eyewear, featured a reading zone that could be turned on or off by the wearer.

The company claimed to have sold more than 1,000 pairs of emPower through a network of U.S. wholesale laboratories and retail distributors. The product won various awards for innovation and was cited by many technology publications and blogs for its futuristic approach to eyewear.

However, in mid-2012 the company encountered problems with the reliability and robustness of the first generation of emPower and stopped distributing it in March, 2013. Since then, PixelOptics has struggled to regain its momentum. The company developed a second generation emPower product which it tested in Europe this summer but was unable to commercialize due to its financial situation.

Some emPower distributors said they were disappointed to learn that PixelOptics is shutting down.

"It is unfortunate, as the electronic lens technology they developed did work,” said Ralph Cotran, vice president of US Optical, an East Syracuse, N.Y. wholesale lab that was PixelOptics’ first distributor. “We still believe that electronic lenses will continue to be developed due to Pixel 's pioneering efforts possibly through their surviving patents or by some of the newer technologies that are being developed by other eyeglass lens innovators including some of the tech giants such as Google."