A robotic contact lens made from soft polymer materials can allow the wearer to pivot or zoom in on an object simply by moving their eye. The US researchers who have developed this device have studied the natural electrical signals of the eye, with their observations helping them to develop a system which functions like a muscle.
US researchers at the University of California in San Diego have perfected a prototype of a robotic contact lens that is controlled by the eye movements of the wearer. The object is even capable of zooming in, making it a genuine innovation in the highly dynamic field of soft robotics, French website Futura-Sciences explains.
Process close to how the body works
The aim of experts in this field is to create systems which can be used for precise or complex tasks, but the devices in question tend to be programmed in advance to carry out their mission or controlled manually by a third party. This is not the case with this lens, which is based on a principle similar to how a muscle works, meaning that it is biomimetic.
An electro-oculographic signal is used by the wearer to send the desired commands to the object, according to the study on the subject published on 16 July in the scientific journal Advanced Functional Materials. By moving their eyes, the wearer can move the lens in the desired direction. Zooming meanwhile is carried out by a double blink of the eyelid which modifies the focus of the system.
Using the eye to control other devices
The polymer materials used to make the contact lens were chosen in an attempt to limit the delay between the movements of the eyes that emit the command and the response of the object. The researchers opted for polymer components as they have dielectric elastomer films reputed for their reactiveness. To make this biomimetic functioning possible, the Californian researchers first of all studied closely the electrical signals that are naturally generated by the eye. Five electrodes were used to capture and quantify the difference in electric potential in the organ, and the information obtained then helped the scientists to develop the device.
The specialists hope that the system therein can later be adapted to other types of machines, which in term could be controlled by their users purely via the eyes. Examples of this could be "visual prosthetics, adjustable glasses or remote-controlled robots", the authors of the study explained.
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