Swiss scientists are working on telescopic contact lenses that boost vision and zoom via winking.
New, 1.55 millimeter-thick contact lens contains an extremely thin, reflective telescope that can be activated by winks.
Initial test product was released in 2013 and fine-tuned since, the prototype was unveiled by Eric Tremblay from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in California.
The lenses come with smart glasses that respond to the wearer’s winks—but not blinks—so that the user can switch almost effortlessly from normal to magnified vision and back. The wearer winks with the right eye to activate the telescope, and with the left eye to deactivate it.
“We think these lenses hold a lot of promise for low vision and age-related macular degeneration,” a vision disorder that affects older people, Tremblay said. “At this point this is still research, but we are hopeful it will eventually become a real option for people with AMD.” The device magnifies objects 2.8 times, meaning AMD patients can read more easily and better recognize faces and objects with its help.
Funded by the Pentagon’s defense research arm DARPA, these lenses were originally developed as bionic vision for soldiers. “Small mirrors within the lenses bounce the light, expanding the perceived size of objects and magnifying the view, so it’s like looking through low magnification binoculars,” the researchers said in a statement.
The latest version of the telescopic contact lens, with a quarter for scale. Credit: Eric Tremblay and Joe Ford / EPFL.
Tremblay was careful to stress that the device was still at the research stage, though it could eventually become a “real option” for people with AMD. “It’s very important and hard to strike a balance between function and the social costs of wearing any kind of bulky visual device,” he said. “There is a strong need for something more integrated, and a contact lens is an attractive direction.” The contacts are made using large, rigid “scleral lenses,” unlike the soft contacts most people wear, but are nonetheless safe and comfortable, Tremblay said. Several precision-cut pieces of plastic, aluminum mirrors and polarizing thin films form the lens, along with biologically safe glues. Eye needs a steady supply of oxygen, so the scientists have worked on making the device more breathable, using tiny air channels that are approximately 0.1 millimeter wide within the lens.
The research team, which includes the University of California, San Diego as well as experts at Paragon Vision Sciences, Innovega, Pacific Sciences and Engineering, and Rockwell Collins, described its product as “a huge leap” forward, compared to glasses already on the market for people with AMD that have mounted telescopes but tend to be bulky and awkward to use.
Unlike older models, which require the user to tilt his or her head and position the eyes just right in order to use them, the latest iteration tracks eye movement, making them easier to use.
Read the full article: phys.org