Have you ever wanted to look more closely at your surroundings without having to move in closer? Well, you may soon be able to do exactly that, and without the need to wear Google Glass or any other gadgets – just blink twice and zoom in!
Bringing science fiction closer to science reality, researchers from the University of California San Diego have developed a set of contact lenses – comprised mostly of electro-active polymer films – capable of magnifying your visual field upon blinking twice in quick succession.
The lenses contain a soft biomimetic – meaning something artificial, designed to mimic a certain biochemical process – sensor which picks up on specific electrooculographic signals, i.e., electric impulses generated by eye movement, and changes the focal length of the lens.
“An electro-active DE [dielectric elastomer] film is composed of a soft dielectric layer sandwiched between two compliant electrodes. When an electrical potential is applied between the two electrodes, the soft layer can instantly expand its area and reduce its thickness through the action of Maxwell stresses,” wrote the authors.
Interestingly, the lenses work – meaning zoom in, not generate visual experience itself – even in people who are blind, as the control system was designed to respond to electrical fluctuations, rather than anything inherent to eyesight as such.
According to the authors, who have detailed their work in a study published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, potential applications of the system include “visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely-operated robotics”, as well as physical models for visualising physiological principles in biological and medical research.
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