Contact lenses zoom in on distant objects with a double blink

Scientists are talking up a new contact lens that is controlled by small eye movements. Wearers of the lens could zoom in or out on objects using a double blink. Researchers from the University of San Diego are talking up the new contact lenses that leverage the natural electrical signals in the human eye that are active even when the eye is closed.

Scientists at the University of San Diego have shown off this sort of contact lens before. The new lenses use what is known as the electro-oculographic signal to change their zoom state. Lead researcher Shengqiang Cai said that most people can move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal even when the eye can't see anything.

The lens is constructed of a polymer that expands when an electrical current is applied. The lens is controlled using five electrodes that surround the eyes and act like muscles. When the polymer becomes more convex, the lens zooms in.

The scientists on the project hope that the contact lens could one day help create a prosthetic eye or a camera that can be controlled using the eyes alone. The team sees several different fields where the tech could potentially be useful, including visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future.

When the university talked up similar contact lenses in 2015, they could enlarge things 2.8x. They were controlled by blinking the eye for zooming in and out. At the time, the lenses required the user to wear glasses to control the switching of zoom and to recognize the wink trigger. The new lenses can switch using the electric signals in the eye.