Scientists at the University of California San Diego have created a prototype contact lens that zooms on your command. The researchers commented in a statement, “According to our knowledge, a soft tunable lens, whose position and focus length can be separately controlled by soft active material, has never been designed and constructed before.” The details of the development of the new contact lens is detailed in a recently published paper, “A Biomimetic Soft Lens Controlled by Electrooculographic Signal,” in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
The contact lens can automatically switch between focusing on near or far objects by detecting the wearer’s eye movements. It is controlled by eye movements and will zoom in if you blink twice. The contact lenses were made as a proof of concept, not a commercial product, and are designed to merely show what could be possible in the future.
The scientists created a soft biomimetic lens that responds directly to the electrooculographic signals generated when eyes make specific movements. By placing electrodes on the skin around the eye, those movements can be tracked and translated elsewhere. The lens itself is made from layers of stretchy polymer films that change their structure when an electrical current is applied. As the layers either expand or contract, the focal point of the light passing through the artificial lens is altered, changing its focal length.
It will take years before the contact lens will be able to function as promised directly on a human eye. Several components will have to be dramatically miniaturized before a human could wear it. However, with more work, the researchers believe this innovation could be use in a wide variety of applications in the future. They say in the report, “The system developed in the current study has the potential to be used in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future. In addition, because of the biomimetic features of the system, it can also be used as a physical model for visualizing physiological principles, which is important in biology and medicine.”