Wonderful Engineering

These Telescopic Eye Lenses Can Zoom In & Out If You Wink

Say hello to telescopic contact lenses that will allow the user to toggle between magnified vision and normal vision, and will soon be here. The latest prototype was unveiled at the AAAS Annual Meeting held in San Jose, California. The telescopic lens can one day help those who suffer from visual impairment. The lenses will also prove super-beneficial to those who have macular degeneration – a condition where the patient loses central vision over time.

The telescopic lens has been developed by a team that was working under the leadership of Eric Tremblay at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The telescopic lens is rigid and will cover the sclera (whites of the eyes). This makes it bigger than the conventional lens. The lens features small aluminum mirrors that have been arranged in a ring around the center of the telescopic lens. When the light passes through, it is bounced around several times by the mirrors thus making an object appear to be 2.8 times bigger than it really is.

In order to switch between the normal and magnified view, the lenses have to be worn using a pair of electronic glasses. After that, when you wink using one eye; the glasses are switched to a polarized filter that directs the light to the telescopic part of the lenses. Winking the other eye will switch the glasses to the default setting where the light passes through the lens normally.

The prototype telescopic lens is based on a previous version that didn’t allow the user to toggle between viewing modes. The design of the lens has also undergone some alteration to make sure that sufficient oxygen reaches the eye. This had to be done because the lenses are big and think in the middle thereby restricting the airflow to the eye’s surface. This meant that unless the problem was solved, the lenses could only be used for a short amount of time. The team came up with a solution that comprised of small channels that allowed air to travel around the underside of the lens.

James Handa, an ophthalmologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, said, ‘If it affords them the ability to get enough magnification for their loss of vision, absolutely. It’s a highly innovative and very creative idea.’