I wouldn't normally pay too much attention to such a seemingly minor thing as eyeglass hinges, but Spine Optic's extraordinary 3D video animation caught my imagination. The company's range of frames feature a nifty self-closing hinge inspired by the human backbone that holds the glasses firmly in place on your face and offers extra flexibility to fit different sized heads.
Before anything else, I want you to take a look at this video. At 43 seconds, you'll see an absolutely extraordinary video animation.
That is a thoroughly stunning presentation, a masterpiece of 3-D animation. Look at the way the screws go in and out, the way the cable wraps around. It's hypnotic. And it's all about eyeglass hinges.
Spine Optics is founded on the premise that the humble hinge can be done better. Certainly, I've lost more pairs of sunnies to hinge failure than anything else, although for the most part it's been hinge failure brought on by sitting on the damn things.
Spine's system is modelled after the human… well, spine, in that it uses a series of "vertebrae" such that nothing pivots on a screw, and none of the pieces need to rotate more than 18 degrees. The whole shebang is held together by a wire cable that's held under tension by a pair of springs that close the glasses up when they're not being held open.
The advantages are supposed to be reduced wear and tear, additional flexibility in the hinge, and a gentle "clamping" effect that sticks the glasses to your head better without giving you a headache in the process. This clamping effect is also claimed to make a single frame wearable by people with different sized heads.
It's too soon for me to comment on durability just yet, but the hinge sure is flexible – in two directions, too, as the arms can tilt up and down as well as in and out. And the clamping motion certainly seems effective. I can shake my head about a fair bit without dislodging the Spine glasses, and I rarely need to push them back up on my nose.
I don't find the spring-loaded clamping action uncomfortable on my temples at all. I'm not sure if it'd be more of an issue on a bigger noggin, but they feel great to me for a couple of hours at a stretch, which is the most I'd generally wear sunnies for.
The self-closing action can be a bit annoying in other situations though. It means you can't put the Spine glasses on one-handed, and you've got to find some way to hold them open when you want to clean them.
Functionality aside, the ones they sent us look good to me, they feel good, the hinge mechanism is fun to play with and the lenses are high quality. Spine frames are available at optical retailers for around US$150 and up, so the prices are reasonable.
If you don't mind sacrificing one-handed operation for a snug and grippy fit, they might be worth considering for your next pair.