Binoculars are handy, whether you’re birding, boating or just sitting in the cheap seats. They can also be bulky, heavy and a pain to carry around. But imagine if contact lenses could be made to magnify images and serve as tiny, wearable binoculars.
Swiss and U.S. researchers are working on just such an optical prosthetic, with funding from the U.S. Defense Department.
The device is a very thin reflective telescope inside a rigid contact lens just 1.5 millimeters thick. When worn with a special pair of glasses, the effect is said to be like looking through a pair of low-magnification binoculars.
The lenses let you switch between normal vision and a view that’s magnified nearly three times with the wink of an eye. The glasses help the contacts distinguish between intentional winks and involuntary blinks.
The research team unveiled their latest prototype at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting. [Eric Tremblay, Smart Glasses and Telescopic Contact Lenses for Macular Degeneration]
The technology could be worn on healthy eyes, which could mean checking certain baseball players to make sure they’re not wearing a pair. But it’s really designed to help the visually impaired, especially those with age-related macular degeneration. If the system succeeds, it could offer a nonsurgical option to help improve failing vision.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]
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