Telescopic 1.17mm-thin contact lenses provide 2.8x optical zoom

By on July 2, 2013, 1:00 PM

If you’re like me, you watch a movie like Ghost in the Shell, or read a book like Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon, and find yourself elated over the idea of augmenting humanity with cybernetic enhancements. Well, my fellow technophiles, we’re one step closer today with the invention of a telescopic contact lens that magnifies vision by nearly three times.

An international research team led by Joseph Ford of UCSD and Eric Tremblay of EPFL created the new contact lens that provides the wearer with 2.8x optical zoom. However, the real differentiator for this bionic device is its 1.17mm profile, making it the first telescopic lens thin enough to be worn comfortably over the human eye.

Previous telescopic vision utilities include 4.4mm-thick lenses that are too large to be comfortable, and telescopic glasses that are unattractive and unwieldy. Prior to these new lenses, the most recent advance was through surgically implanting a telescopic lens into the eye, which is very effective, but very invasive, and doesn’t provide excellent image quality, according to ExtremeTech.

The above image demonstrates the magnification effect, and as fantastic as it may be to consider having eagle-eye vision, this technology is being developed to aid people suffering from age-related macular degeneration. AMD affects the center of the retina, where the fovea inputs high-resolution images, but the outer region, or perifovea, generally still functions properly. These telescopic lenses work by focusing light into the outer region of the eye, allowing people suffering from AMD to see.

Developing a lens only 1.17mm thin took a great deal of ingenuity from the research team. In order to gain the 2.8x magnification, light is reflected four times within the lens before it exits towards the eye. It also corrects for chromatic aberration, which limits distortion and results in a relatively high fidelity image.

The lenses aren’t quite ready for market. They are currently made from a gas-impermeable polymer, PMMA, similar to older, more uncomfortable contact lenses. The researchers now have to switch to a rigid gas-permeable material like whats used in modern contact lenses to make them more comfortable and less fatiguing.

While these lenses are developed and designed to assist people with AMD, a healthy person could certainly wear them. However, we still have at least a few years to go before we get truly unobtrusive optical zoom lenses (hopefully with a built in HUD), as this technology requires a polarization lens to activate the effect. A simple set of active 3D glasses does the trick--switching them on turns on magnification. Hopefully folks who end up wearing these habitually will be outfitted with glasses that are a little more stylish than Samsung's.




User Comments: 14

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Guest said:

The future is here!....in a few years.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Cool story, but I don't think either would make for a very comfortable lens. I wore gas-permeable lenses for years and they are not comfortable, and the ones I had were easily less than a mm thick. Soft lenses are far more comfortable.

Still... if my vision were deteriorating I don't think I'd be complaining about comfort. This is a very cool piece of technology. I would imagine it would make driving difficult though because everything would always be magnified. I'm not sure that'd be very helpful in every circumstance.

(FYI you've got 1.17mm in the text and diagram and 1.77 mm in the text and title.)

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

(FYI you've got 1.17mm in the text and diagram and 1.77 mm in the text and title.)

Fixed. Thanks Mike.

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Crazy science! So how does that work? Can you narrow your eyelids to hide the magnification and see normally, then open your eyes wide for a magnified view?

Guest said:

Does they make the same sound as the six million dollar mans did when it zooms in? I'll have a pair if they do!!

.

IAMTHESTIG said:

Awesome... very interested to see what our future holds.

JC713 JC713 said:

Now we are talking!!!

MilwaukeeMike said:

Crazy science! So how does that work? Can you narrow your eyelids to hide the magnification and see normally, then open your eyes wide for a magnified view?

I believe it's always zoomed. Like putting a magnifying glass in your eye. The trick is in how thin the lens is.

Staff
Jesse Jesse said:

Crazy science! So how does that work? Can you narrow your eyelids to hide the magnification and see normally, then open your eyes wide for a magnified view?

I believe it's always zoomed. Like putting a magnifying glass in your eye. The trick is in how thin the lens is.

You either take your glasses off, or turn your glasses off, to stop magnification.

SexyMan SexyMan said:

AHA!!.. My dream of able to do this is about to happen http://youtu.be/KUFkb0d1kbU?t=17s

lawfer, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Amazing.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

I wouldn't use them while driving but they could come in handy for reading the fine print in one of Apple's contracts but you may want to take them out while reading their price list.

Guest said:

Ah Red Dwarf, if only more ppl liked that show and understood its humor. Btw that clip in reference to this made me laugh pretty hard.

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

Six Million Dollar Man had eye implant also his one eye could do night and infra-red vision. The Bionic Son hey had could use his eye as a laser weapon.

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