New robotic soft lens controlled by eye movements and blinking

The robotic lenses mimic the natural electric signals in the human eyeball that are active even when the eye itself is closed, while most soft robots are controlled manually or pre-programmed. They could be used in visual prostheses, eyeglasses, or remotely operated robots in the future.

According to Shengqiang Cai from the University of California San Diego “Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal.”

The human eyeball is electric – there is a steady electrical potential between its front and back, even when your eyes are closed or in total darkness.

The researchers from the University measured the electrical potential of the eye – named the “electro-oculographic signal” – and then made lenses that would respond to that activity.

The lens is made from polymers that expand when electric current is applied. When the polymer becomes more convex, the lens zooms in, meaning in the future users could zoom in on object simply by blinking at them.

The robotic eye is controlled using five electrodes surrounding it which act like muscles.

Scientists hope one day this could help create a prosthetic eye or a camera that can be controlled using eyes alone.

Sadly it remains unclear when the contact lenses will be ready to buy, or how much they’re likely to cost.

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