A new robotic contact lens is controlled via simple eye movements. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego developed the contact lens to work off the electrical signals which are given off naturally by the human eye. Among other things, they hope the lens can one day be used to control robots or machines using only the eyes.
According to New Scientist, the researchers’ “biomimetic soft lens” is basically a tiny bag of saltwater, while the case is made from polymers which can be adjusted to be more concave or convex, depending on changes in voltage. As the polymer shifts into a more convex shape, the lens zooms in. This enables the robotic contact lens to zoom in or out in a way that’s similar to how zoom lenses on cameras can zoom in or out. To zoom the contact lens in, the wearer simply blinks twice, and to zoom back out, they blink two more times. The lens is controlled via five electrodes around the eye, which work like muscles.
The ultimate goal for the robotic contact lens is to one day use it in visual prostheses or adjustable glasses, although there are more potential uses. People who suffer from certain disabilities may also be able to use the lens to control other machines or robots. One of the co-authors of the paper about the contact lens told New Scientist that even those who are blind can still “move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal.”
The paper about the contact lens was published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials. The co-authors note that most soft robots which have already been developed are controlled either manually or by pre-written programs. They hope their robotic contact lens can be used to control devices using only the eyes. The co-authors also believe the biomimetic features of their contact lens also enable it to be used as a “physical model for visualizing physiological principles.”