Scientists Develop Robotic Contact Lenses That Zoom When You Blink

Robotic Zoomable Contact Lens

Stock Photos from Zyn Chakrapong/Shutterstock

The contact lens of the future may be on the horizon thanks to new research published by scientists from the University of California San Diego. The team has created a zoomable contact lens that follows eye movement and allows users to activate simply by blinking. In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials, the researchers detail their design and how the technology has the potential to be used in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future.

So how does it work? The contact lens is mounted to the eye via five electrodes. The placement of the electrodes allows the wearer to zoom in when they double blink quickly. An electrical charge applied to the polymer film layers of the contact cause it to expand and contract, changing its thickness. Thus, when the lens is zoomed in, it becomes more convex.

Blink and Zoom Contact Lens

This is an incredible breakthrough because the team has also designed the contact lens to respond to eye movement. If you look to your right and then blink twice, the lens will zoom properly in that direction. Most soft robots are either pre-programmed or work manually, but the ability to harness natural eye movement is highly innovative and could have big implications.

“Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal,” shares lead researcher Shengqiang Cai. Electro-oculographic signals are generated by the human eye due to an electrical field in the tissue surrounding it. By measuring the difference in the electrical field between the front and back of the eye, movements can be tracked and traced.

Robotic Contact Lens Technology

While we're still a long way from having robotic contact lenses hit the market, the groundbreaking research will certainly help lead to new innovations in the field.

h/t: [Gizmodo, FStoppers]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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