Wink if you want to see more of me, say Swiss boffins

High-tech contact lens comes with eyelid control

Contact lens telescope

Two years ago scientists from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) demoed a contact lens with a telescope built in, and they've now refined the prototype to allow the user to control its functions with the wink of an eye.

"We think these lenses hold a lot of promise for low vision and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)," said EPFL researcher Eric Tremblay.

"It's very important and hard to strike a balance between function and the social costs of wearing any kind of bulky visual device. There is a strong need for something more integrated, and a contact lens is an attractive direction."

The original design was a single-function device capable of providing telescoping vision of 2.8 times magnification, but that was it. The new lens adds a bit more hardware to allow the user to switch between normal and telescope view.

The new lenses are worn with a pair of normal looking eyeglasses that act as a controller. The user winks with one eye, which is detected by a light sensor in the glass, to switch on the telescope. The sensor in the specs can differentiate between a wink and a standard blink so the wearer doesn't get dizzy.

The 1.55mm thick lenses are made of precision cut plastics, aluminum mirrors, and polarizing thin films that combine into a very thin reflective telescope, bound together with biologically safe glues. To keep the eye healthy, tiny air channels roughly 0.1mm wide have been built into the lens, which allow it to be worn for long periods.

There are still some issues to iron out before moving to production, but in a few years a wink might not mean a come-on – just someone trying to get a better look at your cleavage or package. ®

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