Scientists developing controllable contact lens that zooms in

They're made from stretchy, electroactive polymer films.

Scientists developing controllable contact lens that zooms in
Pixabay
  • The contact lens is made mainly from stretchy, electroactive polymer films.
  • It's able to recognize subtle electrooculographic signals that we generate in the tissues near the eye.
  • Samsung also recently filed a patent to develop what appear to be smart contact lenses.


A new type of soft contact lens could someday allow wearers to zoom in on distant objects just by blinking, or moving their eyes.

In a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, describe how they developed a biomimetic soft lens that's able to expand instantly, changing the focal length and motion of the lens. The lens — it is made of stretchy, electro-active polymer films — uses electrodes to interpret the electro-oculographic signals that we generate in the tissues around the eye.

The goal is to make the lens sensitive enough to discern subtle changes in these signals, and to match the signals with actions: blink twice to zoom in, look down to focus on near objects, etc.

"Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal," lead researcher Shengqiang Cai told New Scientist.

The researchers wrote:

"Because of the use of soft materials, the relative change of focal length of the lens could be as large as 32 percent through deformation. Due to the fast response of [dielectric elastomer films], the movements of the eyes and the soft lens could be easily synchronized."

Cai et al.

For now it's just a prototype — one that's too big to fit in the human eye, and which requires people wear conspicuous electrodes on their face. But the researchers suggested the system could someday be used "in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future."

Samsung also appears interested in developing smart contacts. The South Korean company was recently granted a patent for lens technology that could include augmented reality, projecting light directly onto the user's retina, motion sensing and a camera. The patent also includes a tiny antenna, suggesting it might be able to pair with an external device like a smartphone.

But even if developers can surpass the technological hurdles, it'll take years before any smart contact lens proves safe enough to make it market.

COVID-19 amplified America’s devastating health gap. Can we bridge it?

The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.

Willie Mae Daniels makes melted cheese sandwiches with her granddaughter, Karyah Davis, 6, after being laid off from her job as a food service cashier at the University of Miami on March 17, 2020.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
  • Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
  • To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
Keep reading Show less

Decades of data suggest parenthood makes people unhappy

Decades of studies have shown parents to be less happy than their childless peers. But are the kids to blame?

(Photo by Alex Hockett / Unsplash)
Sex & Relationships
  • Folk knowledge assumes having children is the key to living a happy, meaningful life; however, empirical evidence suggests nonparents are the more cheery bunch.
  • The difference is most pronounced in countries like the United States. In countries that support pro-family policies, parents can be just as happy as their child-free peers.
  • These findings suggest that we can't rely on folk knowledge to make decisions about parenting, on either the individual or societal levels.
Keep reading Show less

Lonely? Hungry? The same part of the brain worries about both

MRI scans show that hunger and loneliness cause cravings in the same area, which suggests socialization is a need.

Credit: Dương Nhân from Pexels
Mind & Brain
  • A new study demonstrates that our brains crave social interaction with the same areas used to crave food.
  • Hungry test subjects also reported a lack of desire to socialize, proving the existence of "hanger."
  • Other studies have suggested that failure to socialize can lead to stress eating in rodents.
Keep reading Show less

A Chinese plant has evolved to hide from humans

Researchers document the first example of evolutionary changes in a plant in response to humans.

Credit: MEDIAIMAG/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • A plant coveted in China for its medicinal properties has developed camouflage that makes it less likely to be spotted and pulled up from the ground.
  • In areas where the plant isn't often picked, it's bright green. In harvested areas, it's now a gray that blends into its rocky surroundings.
  • Herbalists in China have been picking the Fritillaria dealvayi plant for 2,000 years.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast