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These prototype contact-style soft lenses come with blink-controlled zoom

An illustration from the paper that shows the setup used to control the soft lens.

Can't see from the cheap seats in the cinema or at the ball game? No problem, just use the zoom in your contact lenses to get a better view of the action! Unfortunately we're not quite there yet, but zoomable contact lenses could be available in the not too distant future based on a paper recently published in the Advanced Functional Materials journal titled ‘A Biomimetic Soft Lens Controlled by Electrooculographic Signal.’

As detailed in the paper, scientists at the University of California San Diego have designed and built a prototype of a contact lens that is controlled by eye motion. You blink twice to either zoom in or out. The stretchy polymer film the lenses are made of reacts to the electric signals generated by the movement of the user's eyes and contracts accordingly to adjust the magnification of the lens.

These signals are known as electrooculographic signals and can be generated even during sleep. ‘Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal,’ said lead researcher Shengqiang Cai talking to New Scientist.

A diagram from the paper detailing how the lens contracts and expands depending on the electrooculographic signals applied to it.

But don't pull your credit card out yet. The technology is still a fairly long way from commercialization as the current prototype needs a special rig and test users had electrodes placed around the eyes for the system to work. Eventually the inventors hope their technology will be used prostheses, adjustable glasses and remotely operated robotics.

There is no talk of camera technology in this project but if you are waiting for contact lenses with recording capabilities both Google and Sony have patents for those.

View Comments (37)

Comments

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Editors' picks (1)
DPR staff (1)
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Aegon Targaryen

Zooming is cool and all, but I'm waiting for the Pentax infrared version that also sees through clothes. 😄

Aug 2, 2019
Onteo

Besides the funny comments, if this could integrate AI/face recognition tech, jobs like baywatch, rescue services, police search and a whole load of applications would be benefiting from this tech.

Jul 31, 2019
vscd
vscd

...or spying, supervision, tracing, automatic guns.

Aug 1, 2019
DejayRezme

Finally no one can tell me that 61MP resolution is too high for a A3 print!

Jul 31, 2019
Zoom Zoom Zoom
Zoom Zoom Zoom

:
Finally I can sell my 24-240mm zoom and don't need to carry it everywhere anymore.

Jul 31, 2019
24F14GM
24F14GM

The animated gif does not seem to give much credit to zoom or focus distance, it is just really scary. Or is it the next generation of smart glasses ? Just imagine: this with recording, with augmented vision ?

and yes: resistance is futile ^^

I will be back :)

Jul 31, 2019
Olifaunt

Wait, is this about accommodation (focusing near or far) or zoom? From the picture (one lens flatter or more rounded) it seems to be about accommodation, not zoom.

Jul 31, 2019*
dr.noise
dr.noise

You can zoom with your feet... oh wait

Jul 31, 2019
photographytragic

Well certainly a human eye can zoom a bit (see my main comment about 4 down)

Aug 1, 2019
phototiimo

I wouldn't personally feel safe putting anything electronic on my eyeballs. Sometimes things malfunction, and I wouldn't want them to take my eye out too.

Jul 31, 2019
llamacide
llamacide

Nope!! Not putting anything in my eye that has a "high voltage supply"!

Jul 31, 2019
McArchive

...all your visions are belong to us.

Jul 31, 2019
Olifaunt

High voltage out of context is meaningless. The membranes of every cell in the body has an extremely high voltage across them, for example, yet this doesn’t electrocute you.

Jul 31, 2019*
bakanecko

that is only for protoyping purposes, the real one if the scientist can make one in future will be free any of external power source, it will relying on electrooculographic signals from our own.

Jul 31, 2019
underxposed59

we are borg
resistance is futile

Jul 30, 2019
photographytragic

I didn't realise our eyes could zoom until I was using the "both eyes open" method on my SLR (obviously at a focal length that made both eyes view the same). But then I unwittingly zoomed in a moderate amount, and my left eye instantly hurt a bit, and zoomed to match what my right eye was seeing in the viewfinder!
I then continued to zoom and it kept up!
I am older now, and presbyopia has onset, but I can still do it to a lessened degree, and slower to match the views. (I just tried it before writing this.)

Jul 30, 2019
photographytragic

Forgot to say that when younger, I went on to train myself to do it in both eyes, then also do it at will.
It must have subconsciously involved changing both the lens and the eyeball shape (while this invention seem to be only changing the lens shape).

Aug 1, 2019
Dave Marcus - Atlanta

But, officer, I blinked accidentally...

Jul 30, 2019
photophile
photophile

Wasn't this already done back in the mid 1970's? I think his name was Steve Austin.

Jul 30, 2019
MarshallG
MarshallG

Do these contact lenses make the cool boop-boop-boop-boop sound when they zoom?

Jul 30, 2019
Photo Pete

They should cost less than in the 70’s.

What was it then... about $1.5m for the eye with the other $4.5m going on legs and arm?

However if you were to stick a red dot on them....

Jul 31, 2019
LJ - Eljot
LJ - Eljot

Those 6 mio. then would be 34 mio. now, due to inflation.

Aug 1, 2019
David610
David610

Twin lens but no reflex ... mirrorless.

Jul 30, 2019
Leandros S

Enhance!

Jul 30, 2019
Photo Pete

I don’t think this would particularly help with Keratoconus. That is just a gradual deformation of the cornea and has very little to do with the ability to focus the eye’s lens.

Jul 31, 2019
Alphaloki

But...But... it sounds so sciency! :)

Jul 31, 2019
mrmut
mrmut

Thia could prove to be revolutionary. In 20 years we would be able to go full cyborg with wired brains and machine-improved bodies. Great time to be alive.

Jul 30, 2019
King Penguin
King Penguin

No dual card slots, no EVF, no deal.........😎

Jul 30, 2019
Leonp

C'mon. I get sick of these comments. 1 time is hilarious, 4 times is funny, but this has been going on for years.

Jul 30, 2019
adengappasami

4 found it funny.....world has so many people that u can repeat anything and still be funny

Aug 1, 2019
tangbunna

good news for blinds and eyes problems. can be next gen AR glasses for blinds.

Jul 30, 2019
Horshack

Coming soon to your camera: Eye AF on both sides of the eye ball.

Jul 30, 2019
Horshack

@cosinaphile, I meant an eye used to control the camera's Eye AF, ie eye AF on both sides of the camera.

Jul 30, 2019
Dale Baskin
Dale Baskin

@Horshack – I wrote that two years ago and I still want Canon to bring back that feature! But I'm not holding my breath ;)

Jul 30, 2019*
cosinaphile
cosinaphile

ah ... got it

Jul 30, 2019