Scientists Invent Zooming Contact Lenses Activated By Blinking

Contact lens
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Scientists at the University of California San Diego claim to have invented a set of soft robotic lens that give humans the capability to zoom in and out with the blink of an eye.

The team led by Shengqiang Cai — assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at UC San Diego’s Institute of Engineering in Medicine — claim in its research paper that the lens can use the electro-oculagraphic signal of the eye, the electric potential generated by the muscular activity in this organ.

(Image credit: UC San Diego)

The scientists created the device with a polymer that changes its shape using the electro-oculagraphic signal harnessed by five electrodes set around the eye. When you blink twice in a rapid fashion, the lenses shapeshifts, deforming incoming light to act like a zoom. 

Don’t expect this to give you Superman-like 10x zoom vision powers, though: the actual change in focal length is 32 percent. Talking to New Scientist, Cai said that soft lenses made from this material añso have superior performance to a standard glass lens.

The researchers claim that they can use the electrical potential of the eye to control eyeglasses, cameras, or any other type of optical device, including remote robotic cameras.

The innovation is not exactly ready-to-wear tech yet, but it’s a promising development. I can’t wait to try something like this or some other non-invasive body enhancements, like the ability to enhance or turn off my hearing. Heck, I will be happy with turning it off so I don’t have to hear people chewing noisily in a shared workspace.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.