Zoom In, Zoom Out In The Blink Of An Eye: Telescopic Lenses Set To Aid The Visually Impaired

(Image: medicaldaily.com)

Anyone with a facial tic that has them blinking involuntarily might want to stay away from these: they’re telescopic contact lenses that let you zoom in and out with a wink and a blink.

With the wink of one eye, the contact lenses increase the object you’re looking at to almost triple its size. With a blink of your other eye, the image resumes to its normal appearance.

(Image: sciencealert.com)

The lenses have incorporated into them very thin reflective telescopes: small mirrors which bounce the light around in order to magnify the view.

It is hoped the lenses will be a seeing aid for the visually impaired, and in particular people living with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of failing vision in people over 40 years of age. Current estimates place the number of people living with visual impairment at around 285 million.

Increasingly, researchers are looking into ways of aiding the visually impaired to better see without having to undertake costly invasive surgeries, one such device – similar to but bulkier than the contact lenses – being the eSight Electronic Glasses:

(Image: tagroom.com)

A fantastic breakthrough, but, yes, a tad cumbersome.

Researchers have showcased the contact lenses at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in San Jose, California. So far they’re just in the prototype of production, and have only been tested on a life-size mechanical model of the eye that relayed what was seen to a computer screen.

As is often the case with awesome breakthroughs like this, it will be some time before they are readily available for users. At present, they are approximately 1.55mm thick and quite rigid, covering the white of the eye, making them much larger and and less comfortable than the more readily soft contact lenses available. 

On top of that, they can only be worn for about 30 minutes at a time, as they inhibit the breathability of the eyes. 

Oh, and you also have to wear an additional pair of digital glasses that can register your blinking and winking and facial tics.

Why not just create a pair of telescopic glasses, you ask? Because then we’d probably be back at the bulkiness of the eSight glasses, perhaps. But all of that aside, these are impressive strides towards assisting the millions of people worldwide who can’t alone determine whether you’re winking at them.

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