Scientists at the University of California San Diego claim to have invented a set of soft robotic lens that gives humans the capability to zoom in and out with the blink of an eye.
It seems like a medical breakthrough straight out of science fiction, and for time being, it is so. Reportedly, it will take years before the contact lens can operate as promised directly on a human eye.
The prototype operates only in a special rig using various components that will have to be dramatically miniaturized before a person can wear it, and the test subject seems less than comfortable with a series of electrodes placed on their skin around their eyes.
But it depicts some interesting yet fascinating uses of existing technology that could make contacts a viable alternative for more users.
The team led by Shengqiang Cai — assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UC San Diego’s Institute of Engineering in Medicine — claim in its research paper that the lens can use the electro-oculographic signal of an eye, the electric potential generated by the muscular activity in this organ.
The scientists created the device with a polymer that changes its shape using the electro-oculographic signal harnessed by five electrodes placed around the eye. When the person blinks twice in a rapid fashion, the lenses shapeshift, deforming incoming light to act as a zoom.
The team does not want the users to expect this innovation to deliver Superman-like 10x zoom vision powers, though the actual modification in the focal length is 32%. Talking to New Scientist, Cai said that soft lenses created from this material also have superior performance to a standard glass lens. The researchers claim that they can use the electrical potential of the eye to control eyeglasses, cameras, or any other type of optical device, which also includes remote robotic cameras.
The innovation is not exactly ready-to-wear tech yet, but it’s a promising development. Reportedly, users can’t stay put to try something like this or some other non-invasive body enhancements.