A vision of the future: smart contact lenses

Date:3 August 2019 Author: Adrian Brown Tags:, , , , , , , , , ,

A new prototype contact lens can focus a wearers vision, as well as zoom in on the thing they are looking at

Contact lenses that can zoom in on faraway objects or focus themselves may sound like something out of a sci-fi novel. However, the idea is no longer as futuristically far-fetched as you may think.

A group of researchers at the University of California’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering have come up with a prototype of a contact lens that can zoom and focus, depending on what a person is looking at and in what direction their eyes are moving.

Here’s how they did it. The human eye works by way of electrical signals that are sent from the front of it, to the back of it, and then up to the brain in the form of information. The energy in these signals is generated when the eye moves in different directions. To recreate this process, the researchers connected an external power source to a thin layer of polymer via a series of electrodes. The polymer serves as an alternative to organic tissue, and act as the lens. The polymer can then expand and make itself thinner, or contract and make itself thicker. The result is either more or less light passing through it, which affects the focal point and focuses whatever is being looked at.

What makes this innovation so groundbreaking is how these lenses would be controlled. While connected to a power source during the tests, the lens can eventually be powered by the electrical current generated within the eye itself. This current is determined by which direction the eye is moving in, and can subsequently alter the thickness of the lens accordingly. Using that system, a wearer could use the lens to zoom in on faraway objects. All they would have to do is command it by blinking a few times in rapid succession.

It will still be a while before you would be able to buy contact lenses like these off the shelf. While the technology is currently being used to some extent to control wheelchairs, it first needs to be refined so that people don’t need to walk around with electrodes stuck to their faces. The method of control also needs to be improved as humans constantly blink, and you don’t want our lenses to re-focus every time you do.

Nevertheless, it is a major step forward towards helping people with impaired vision, and for other exciting possibilities.

Source: Wiley Online Library

Image: Pixabay

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