A contact lens that zooms in

Press Release

Blinking or looking around produces an electrical signal that San Diego researchers were able to measure and then use to control a flexible biomimetic lens. 

Robotics, or soft robotics, is a rapidly expanding field of research. Machines made of flexible materials are capable of performing complicated or delicate gestures, but these are usually guided by previously defined programming, or by manual commands.

Researchers at the University of California at San Diego have developed a flexible lens that is peculiarly driven by the movements of the eye. The results of their research were published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Blink to zoom

The system operates with the electrooculographic signal, measuring the electric potential difference generated by the eye with five electrodes. They then used this signal to control a flexible biomimetic lens that functions as a muscle. The rotations of the eye direct the movements of the lens, while blinking twice makes it possible to change the focal length, and thus to zoom.

The lens consists of polymers, including dielectric elastomeric films, which have the advantage of being very reactive, allowing the movements of the lens to be synchronized with the movements of the eye. The results of this research could make it possible to create different devices controlled solely by the eye. “The system developed in this study has the potential to be used in visual prostheses, adjustable eyeglasses or remote-guided robots in the future,” the researchers said.

Warren Morrison