Tech UPTechnologyThey create lenses that zoom by blinking

They create lenses that zoom by blinking

A bionic eye? A team of scientists from the University of California, San Diego (USA) has successfully created a pair of contact lenses that zoom when you blink twice. Details on this invention have been published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials .

To create the lens, the scientists measured the signals that are generated when the eyes perform specific movements, such as blinking or moving left or right, and created a soft contact lens that responds to electrical impulses that the eye produces when performing those movements. That means the lens knows that you are looking to the left or blinking and can perform a function based on that particular movement.

These robotic lenses created by scientists will zoom every time a person blinks twice in a short period of time; something that would come in handy for us to quickly see a street sign in the distance or a car license plate, but it could also be an unexpected nightmare if we accidentally end up blinking twice while behind the wheel of a vehicle or doing just about anything else that requires quick vision and reaction.

To a blink of possibilities

While we’re not likely to see a zoom lens in optics anytime soon, the study opens the door to some pretty cool possibilities for advanced vision technology.

“The system developed in the current study has the potential to be used in visual prosthetics, adjustable glasses and remotely operated robotics in the future, ” suggest the researchers in the report detailing the device. “Furthermore, due to the biomimetic characteristics of the system, it can also be used as a physical model to visualize physiological principles, which is very important in biology and medicine. To our knowledge, an adjustable soft lens has never been designed and built before, whose focus position and length can be controlled separately by soft active material. “


According to the study authors, most soft robots are manually controlled or use pre-written code, but the robotic lens is different. It uses a new human-machine interface controlled by the eye movements and electrooculographic signals that are produced as a result.


Even when the eye is at rest, there is a constant electrical potential between the cornea and Bruch’s membrane – the innermost layer of the choroid. This electrical potential can be measured every time you move your eye or blink, and it is these measurements that manipulate the robotic lens.


What is the zoom lens made of?


The lens itself is made of salt water (or saline solution), which is encased in two films of electroactive polymer and controlled by five electrodes placed around the eyes that detect the electrical potential of the eyes. This allows the lens to expand and reduce in thickness whenever an electrical potential is detected, allowing the wearer to zoom in and out of vision just by blinking. And because the lens is made of soft materials, the relative change in focal length can be as large as 32% , making for a pretty impressive zoom feature.


The design has not been completely perfected: in its current form, it cannot move diagonally, only vertically and horizontally, for example. It can also be vulnerable to motion recognition errors, but as we’ve said, its potential is exciting.

The lenses were made as a proof of concept rather than a commercial product and are designed to simply show what might be possible in the future (not in the light of making this technology available to the general public).

Bionic humans may be a popular sci-fi trope, but this study has brought us one step closer to machine-enhanced, cyborg-style vision .


Referencia: A Biomimetic Soft Lens Controlled by Electrooculographic. Signal. Jinrong Li, Yang Wang, Liwu Liu, Sheng Xu, Yanju Liu, Jinsong Leng, and Shengqiang Cai. Advanced Functional Materials 2019. DOI: 10.1002/adfm.201903762

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