The scientists at the University of California San Diego have made a new robotic soft lens that is controlled by eye movements. Users can make it zoom in objects or zoom out by blinking twice. The team’s findings were published in a paper this month in Advanced Functional Materials.
Made of stretchy polymer films, the biomimetic lens responds to the electric signals produced by the eyes when they move such as blinking. These electric signals are called electrooculographic could and humans are even capable of emitting electric impulses when they are asleep. “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 to New Scientist (paywall).
First, these scientists measured the electrical impulse and found a way to use it to change the focal length of the lens. According to the study, the soft materials used in the lens enables respective changes in the focal length that can be as large as 32 percent. By bending the lens, the focal length is altered. The researchers used dielectric elastomer to obtain the required deformation in the experiment.
The scientists believed that this lens could be used for visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future.
No, no please don’t throw away your reading glasses or binoculars quite yet. According to Gizmodo, the prototype only works in a special rig and the test subjects had a range of electrodes installed around their eyes.
But I bet you’re already dreaming of wearing this and becoming a superspy? At least I was when I first read this, but I know, these things take a lot of time before becoming mainstream.