Scientists have created a contact lens which can be controlled by eye movements, including blinking twice to zoom in and out.
No, you haven’t accidentally stumbled into a time machine and been transported 100 years into the future; you are, unfortunately, still in 2019 where Boris Johnson is prime minister and Love Island has officially finished for the year.
But hey, instead of dwelling on the negatives let’s focus on the more-than impressive feat of a group of scientists in California, who have created the impressive robotic contact lens.
While most soft robots need to be pre-programmed or controlled manually, researchers from the University of California San Diego have managed to create a lens which mimics the natural electric signals in the human eyeball, the Independent reports.
They were able to do this by harnessing the natural electric charge – which is active even when the eye itself is closed – to control the device. How? By measuring the electrical potential of the eye, called the electro-oculographic signal, and then making lenses which respond to that activity.
Lead researcher Shengqiang Cai from the university told New Scientist:
Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal.
The lens, which is made from polymers that expand when electric current is applied, is controlled using five electrodes surrounding the eye which act like muscles.
Incredibly, according to the research published in Advanced Functional Materials, the lens could be switched between ‘near vision mode’ and ‘distance vision mode’ by the user blinking twice, as this would trigger a focal length change. Within each vision mode, the lens could move following the direction of the eye motion.
Researchers wrote in the paper, titled A Biomimetic Soft Lens Controlled by Electrooculographic Signal:
The four moving directions of the eyes could control the planar movements of the tunable lens and double blink of the eyes could trigger the focal length change of the lens.
Scientists hope one day the system developed in this study could help create a prosthetic eye or a camera that can be controlled using the eyes alone.
Who ever thought contact lenses could be the future, hey? Well, aside from those people who invented the original concept in 1887 obviously.
And the people who one-upped those people by creating the first ever plastic contact lenses in 1938.
And… Well, you get the drift.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).