Researchers in Switzerland are currently working on a contact lenses that is capable of zooming in and out with a wink of the eye. The field of contact lens research is not new and there are some big players involved in this kind of research. Google scientists have made “smart” lenses for diabetics, which are capable of monitoring a person’s glucose levels. It has also been rumoured that Google are inventing a contact lens with an in-built camera.
The new optics were showcased by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, held in California, US.
A spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Eric Tremblay, informed people the innovative new lenses are the first of its kind, which includes a set of telescopic lenses and smart glasses.
The technology can tell the difference between blinks and winks. This will enable the user to flick between zoomed and normal vision with ease. The prototype visual aids could be used by those with visual impairment, although it will be more likely that military applications will come out on top first, as military scientists had a hand in the design originally.
If the designs are not snapped up by a country’s defence program, then it could be used in regular medical applications, such as for the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This particular visual impairment is the leading cause of problems in adults over the age of 50.
Unfortunately AMD is a progressive disease whereby people gradually lose their central vision due to cellular damage in the retina. Those who suffer from AMD are not left in the dark entirely, as there are glasses called bioptic telescopes. Unfortunately they are bulky and often interfere with a person’s normal social interactions.
The new ‘telescopic’ contact lens system is designed to be much less intrusive than bioptic telescopes. The telescopes that are built into the lenses were first developed via DARPA. They were initially used as ultra thin cameras for aerial drones, but was converted later on into a vision-enhancing system, which was first announced in 2013. Since them, the system has been tweaked to make the smart glasses better and the lenses more comfortable for longer periods of use.
The lenses are rigid and larger than a standard lens. Within the 1.5 mm thick lenses is a ring of tiny aluminium mirrors that bounce light around, enlarging the perceived size of an object and magnifying the image by a factor of 2.8. In order for the image to be zoomed out, the user has to wink their right eye which interrupts the light being reflected from the contacts to the glasses. This blocks the signal and a polarized filter in the glasses starts. This in turn guides light towards the telescopic part of the lens. To return to normal vision, the user winks their left eye.
These new lenses are still in the prototype stages and human testing is restricted at this time. It will therefore be a while before we see them on the market.
[Image via zurnal24]
SOURCE: Born Scientist