Contact lenses are pretty cool. They enable people to see clearly even with defects in their eyesight and they eliminate the need to wear glasses, which some people find troubling. Contacts, however, haven’t changed much in the last few decades and still are very similar to the design first settled on in 1887 by one of my ancestors, Adolf Gaston Eugen Fick.
Using model human eyes, a pair of 3D glasses and a 3D TV, researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, Switzerland and at the University of California, San Diego figured out that the shutters could be manipulated to focus light in particular parts of the retina, zooming into an area by as much as 2.8x magnification.
The new lens design is a few microns above a millimeter thick and have an unmanaged focal path surrounded by a ring of optics, and these optics can be moved very slightly in either direction to allow you to zoom into a particular area of your vision. Wearers of these new contacts would switch between normal and zoomed vision through the same technology that drives LCD displays, using a shutter to block the light from reaching certain parts of your retina.
Having these “zoom lenses” for use in contacts will help to focus a patient’s vision and perhaps even adjust where their focal point is so that they may see clearly again. Because light can be bent around objects, these lenses can even be used to re-focus your eyesight for other conditions like near-sightedness and short-sightedness, partial blindness as well as various forms of macular degeneration.
Given that there is some technology involved, however, there also appears to be a privacy issue as this technology could potentially be put to use for spying purposes. In 2011, researchers at the National Environmental Research Center created contact lenses that could display text and images, and its possible to even take pictures of what you are seeing.
Its likely that only patients with a lot of money will be able to get their hands on these zoom-capable contacts in the near future, while it will become cheaper through its use in the military. It should come as no surprise then that this is currently being funded by DARPA, a good friend of Boston Dynamics.