The annual American Association for the Advancement of Science conference served as the platform for researcher Eric Tremblay to provide an update on a project we first caught wind of more than a year and a half ago.
If you recall, Tremblay and colleague Joseph Ford had developed a contact lens that provided the wearer with the equivalent of a 2.8x optical zoom.
The project was initially funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as a way to give soldiers “supervision” but as things progressed, it became clear (no pun intended) that the hi-tech lens was better suited to aid those suffering from age-related macular degeneration.
The latest revision of the lens measures 1.55 millimeters thick, up from just 1.17 in the iteration we were first told about. While not specified, the added thickness could have to do with adjusting the reflective bits inside the lens or perhaps switching to a different construction material.
Despite the added thickness, Tremblay said the five patients that have tried the lens thus far report it to be light and comfortable enough for daily use. The contact works with a pair of liquid crystal glasses that the user must wear. Winking your right eye turns on the magnification, winking the left eye turns it off and blinking as usual does nothing.
The major issue they’re dealing with now is figuring out how to get oxygen through the lens to the eye. Without a continuous supply of oxygen, the contact can only be worn for about half an hour. The team has already experimented with tiny channels cut into the contact to feed oxygen as well as adding reservoirs of oxygen-rich fluids.
A fully functional version is expected in roughly two years, Tremblay promised.