Contacts have some clear advantages over eyeglasses, from being impossible to knock off by a hit or fall, to being essentially invisible unlike the edges of the eyeglass lenses. Now, they have just gained a huge new asset.
We have all seen science fiction films about enhancements to our physiology, and fantasy ones where characters could see in the far distance.
Now we can finally claim that we have the means to give everyone and their grandmother telescopic vision. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have introduced contact lenses with zoom support.
The zooming contact lenses
The brainchild of researcher Eric Tremblay, the contacts were revealed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in California.
They are still a prototype, but they can be very useful to counteract age-related macular degeneration (AMD for short). Age-related macular degeneration being the main cause behind loss of sight in adults over the age of fifty.
The lenses have built-in telescopes that can zoom in at 3X. The lenses themselves are rigid, but they are also larger than the normal ones, covering not just the cornea but the sclera as well (the white of the eyes).
1.5 mm thick, the lenses have a ring of tiny aluminum mirrors inside, to bounce light around and magnify the view 2.8 times, increasing the perceived size of objects.
You can switch between normal and zoomed view by winking the right eye, thus interrupting the light being reflexed from the contact to the glasses.
And thus we reach the main drawback: the contacts don't work alone, but in tandem with smart glasses which can distinguish between blinks and winks.
When winking, the light being reflected from the contacts to the glasses is interrupted, activating a polarized filter in the glasses which guides light towards the telescopic part. Winking the left eye resets things to normal view.
The zooming contact lenses might not be superman-level telescopic vision, especially since they'd work while the Clark Kent persona is active, but they are still a significant achievement. Human tests haven't been carried out yet, however, and the amount of time the contacts can be worn is restricted, for health reasons. For now anyway.