Do you ever wish your eyes had a zoom-in function, similar to the one on a camera, just so you could get a better look at something when you needed to? Soon, contact lens wearers may be able to do just that. A new robotic lens created by scientists at the University of California, San Diego can be controlled by eye movements.
When a wearer blinks twice, the lens zooms in. To zoom back out, just blink twice again. Such lenses could automatically focus on near or far objects, too.
For now, the lenses are still in the prototype stage, and still require some significant refinements; wearers must have external sensors attached to their faces to make the current technology work.
Still, this news is promising for those with different types of vision problems that we can’t currently solve. For example, this would assist those who find it difficult to wear contact lenses because they need multiple prescriptions for their eyes.
The scientists are hopeful that the technology could one day be utilized for visual prostheses and adjustable glasses as well as remotely-operated robotics. Their research on this technology was published in the scientific journal Advanced Functional Materials.
“In addition, because of the biomimetic features of the system, it can also be used as physical model for visualizing physiological principles, which is important in biology and medicine,” the study noted.
Similar technology has already been used to aid people with disabilities. They’re known as human-machine interfaces (HMI).
“HMIs have been developed to use electrophysiological signals to control the motion of wheelchairs and diverse functions of exoskeletons,” the researchers wrote. “Those HMIs have not only enabled the disabled to restore their mobility and dexterity but also enhanced the capability of healthy people.”
The prototype lenses have the ability to increase focal length (an indicator of one’s distance from an object) by as much as 32%. Strangely, the function can work even when the eye is closed, such as during sleep.
Basically, the team that created the lenses measured electro-oculographic signals that are generated when eyes move a certain way. They created a soft lens that mimics natural structure and function. It’s made from stretchy polymers that respond to those electronic impulses by expanding or reducing — thus changing the contact’s focal length and affecting how you see.
“Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal,” Shengqiang Cai, lead author of the study, told New Scientist. “It could also be used as an external lens so that a human could control a camera with their eyes.”
For now, major breakthroughs in miniaturization and other types of technology must be made, using extensive research and development resources, to fit all the elements required into the tiny contact lenses themselves.
The authors said in the study that the electrodes they used to attach sensors to the face were all commercially available, so they were not flexible or stretchable; better electrodes would work better for capturing biosignals. Additionally, better high-voltage relays and better signal capturing and processing techniques could assist in making these lens more usable.
Still, it’s an exciting development that may lead to amazing things down the line.
Wow! Here’s hoping that this futuristic-sounding technology is one day available to everyone!
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