Contact lenses that zoom when you blink are a tantalizing glimpse of the future

contact lens
(Image credit: Andy Simmons via Flickr)

Scientists at the University of California have developed a futuristic contact lens capable of zooming in and out when its wearer blinks twice.

The prototype was detailed in a paper published by the Advanced Functional Materials journal and describes a biomimetic lens made from a special elastic polymer.

According to the report, the stretchy material adapts the focal length of the lens in response to electric signals emitted by the human eye.

Boffins call these electrooculographic signals, and by placing electrodes around the wearer's eye, the researchers say they are able to tie the change in focal length to specific eye muscle movements, like blinking twice.

A glimpse of the future – but that's all for now

If you think this sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, you wouldn't be wrong.

As we've mentioned, these contact lenses have only just been prototyped, and there are some practical hurdles to overcome before they're likely to be considered a viable consumer product. 

In addition to requiring electrodes to be placed around the wearer's eyes, they also need a special rig with an external power source to work.

Have a look and you'll probably agree you won't be popping them in to watch the big game any time soon.


(Image credit: Advanced Functional Materials)

In other words, even the very best contact lens websites probably won't be getting any radical new additions any time soon.

Rather, the research team behind the project say it hopes to try and incorporate the system into things like visual prostheses and robotics in the more immediate future.


James Laird

A technology journalist with nearly 10 years of experience, James is the former News and Features Editor at Trusted Reviews, and has also served as regional Editor of Lifehacker. His articles have been spotted on sites ranging from The Sun to InStyle, but his true love is shiny things and the story behind them. An avid golfer in his spare time, you'll also regularly catch him hovering over the BBQ listening to Pearl Jam.