Imagine putting your contact lenses on, flicking a switch, and suddenly getting magnified vision. If the project by a team of researchers from the US and Switzerland (led by University of California San Diego Professor Joseph Ford) ever becomes a commercial product, you may be able to do just that. Initially developed for patients with macular degenerative disease, the lenses feature a telescoping area in the center, which can provide 2.8X magnification:
The new lens system developed by Ford’s team uses tightly fitting mirror surfaces to make a telescope that has been integrated into a contact lens just over a millimeter thick. The lens has a dual modality: the center of the lens provides unmagnified vision, while the ring-shaped telescope located at the periphery of the regular contact lens magnifies the view 2.8 times.
To switch back and forth between the magnified view and normal vision, users would wear a pair of liquid crystal glasses originally made for viewing 3-D televisions. These glasses selectively block either the magnifying portion of the contact lens or its unmagnified center. The liquid crystals in the glasses electrically change the orientation of polarized light, allowing light with one orientation or the other to pass through the glasses to the contact lens.
Granted, you have to wear a pair of glasses over your contact lenses for this to work, so we’re far from the “bionic enhancement” that most geeks are hoping for. But it’s early tech, and there’s no telling what the next few years have in store.