Contact lenses are worn by nearly 50 million people across the United States, statistics say. People who prefer contact lenses to prescription glasses largely like to wear contacts because they aren’t as bulky or as inconvenient as glasses.
Unfortunately, most contact lens wearers take up to an entire month – if not even longer than that – to get used to wearing them before.
Academic researchers working at the University of California San Diego have recently made a new type of contact lens that actively allows the people who wear it to zoom in and out and otherwise be controlled simply through users’ eye movements and blinking patterns.
The University of California San Diego researchers’ findings were published today, Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the peer-reviewed academic journal Advanced Functional Materials with a paper by the name of “A Biomimetic Soft Lens Controlled by Electrooculographic Signal.”
The advanced contact lens works through a network of electrodes – five of them, to be exact – that are spaced evenly around the eyeball. One of the five electrodes is outfitted directly over the pupil, whereas the other four are space around the perimeter of users’ eyes, each of which are 90 degrees apart from one another.
When users blink twice in rapid succession, the contact lens zooms in. Wearers can zoom out by simply blinking twice again. The lens, which is outfitted directly on wearers’ pupils, are made up of multiple layers of specialized polymers that automatically adjust the thickness of the lens by either contracting or expanding, depending on whether users want to zoom in or out.
These polymers change shape using an electrical current that is gentle enough to be used in direct contact with people’s eyes. As a matter of fact, these electrical currents, known as electrooculographic signals, are made directly by the human eye.
Unfortunately for people who are visually challenged, this advanced contact lens technology is most likely several years away from ever being used on a commercial level. However, researchers remain hopeful for the future utilization of the technology, as it is thought to be able to be used for robotic tools that are operated remotely, prosthetics of the eye, and everything else in between.
Right now, according to researchers, the prototype of this technology is simply too bulky to be used in humans. As such, the electrodes and the shape-shifting lens will both have to be shrunken significantly in size before humans can comfortably use the technology to see better.