Robotic contact lens that lets you zoom in by blinking could one day turn your eyeball into a camera
- A new soft lens, made from salt water, can be controlled by your eye movements
- The scientists measured the electrooculographic signals generated when eyes
- These signals generate when eyes make specific movements, like up or down
- This creates a soft biomimetic lens that responds to those electric impulses
- The lens was able to change its focal length depending on the signals generated and therefore able to zoom in the blink of an eye
A new robotic contact lens which is controlled by small eye movements, including double blinks to zoom in and out, has been created by scientists.
The contact lens, which is made from just salt water, works by mimicking the natural electric signals in the human eyeball.
There is a steady electrical potential between the eyeball’s front and back, even when your eyes are closed or in total darkness.
When you move your eyes to look around or blink, the motion of the electrical potential can be measured.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, developed the lens using these signals, called electro-oculograms, to control a soft lens.
Scientists hope one day this could help create new innovations ranging from prosthetic eyes to eye-controlled cameras.
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Researchers from the University of California , San Diego, have developed a robotic lens that is controlled by small eye movements. The contact lens works by mimicking the natural electric signals in the human eyeball
‘Electro-oculographic signals’ allow you to move your eyeball even when your eyes are closed.
Speaking to New Scientist, Dr Shenggiang Cai, who led the study, said: ‘Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal.’
The contact lens is made from polymers that expand when an electric current is applied.
This current is provided by five electrodes surrounding the eye, which act like muscles.
When the polymer becomes more convex, the lens zooms in, meaning in the future users could zoom in on an object by blinking at them.
The team measured the electrooculographic signals generated when eyes make specific movements – up; down; left; right; blink; double blink – and created a soft biomimetic lens that responds directly to those electric impulses.
The lens created was able to change its focal length depending on the signals generated.
There is a steady electrical potential between the eyeball’s front and back, even when your eyes are closed or in total darkness. When you move your eyes to look around or blink, the motion of the electrical potential can be measured
‘The system developed in the current study has the potential to be used in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future,’ said Dr Cai.
It remains unclear when the contact lenses will be ready to buy, or how much they’re likely to cost.
‘The system developed in the current study has the potential to be used in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future.’
Eventually, the interface that the researchers designed to control their lens could be used to run other types of machines or maybe even whole robots.
The study was published in Advanced Functional Materials.
HOW DOES THE PUPIL WORK?
The pupil is the opening in the centre of the iris (the structure that gives our eyes their colour).
The function of the pupil is to allow light to enter the eye where it is then focused on the retina.
The black colour of the pupil is because light that passes through it and is then absorbed by the retina – meaning no light is reflected.
The size of the pupil and how much light enters it is controlled by muscles in the iris.
One muscle constricts the pupil opening and another iris muscle dilates the pupil.
In low-light conditions, the pupil dilates so more light can reach the retina to improve night vision.
In bright conditions, the pupil constricts to limit how much light enters the eye.
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