SAN JOSE, United States - Swiss researchers are developing contact lenses that contain tiny telescopes to boost vision and zoom in and out with the wink of an eye, researchers said Friday.
The latest advances in vision aids - some of which could potentially help the 285 million people worldwide with some form of vision impairment - were discussed at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in California.
The telescopic contact lens prototype unveiled by Eric Tremblay from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland was first released in 2013 and has been fine-tuned since then.
"We think these lenses hold a lot of promise for low vision and age-related macular degeneration," a degenerative vision disorder that affects older people, said Tremblay.
"At this point this is still research, but we are hopeful it will eventually become a real option for people with AMD." The lenses come with smart glasses that respond to the wearer's winks - but not blinks - so that the user can switch almost effortlessly from normal to magnified vision and back.
A thin, reflective telescope is embedded inside the 1.55 millimeter-thick lens.
"Small mirrors within bounce light around, expanding the perceived size of objects and magnifying the view, so it's like looking through low magnification binoculars," the researchers said in a statement.
The research team, which includes the University of California, San Diego as well as experts at Paragon Vision Sciences, Innovega, Pacific Sciences and Engineering, and Rockwell Collins, described their product as "a huge leap" forward, compared to glasses already on the market for people with AMD that have mounted telescopes but tend to be bulky and awkward to use.
Unlike the older models, which require the user to tilt his or her head and position the eyes just right in order to use them, the latest products can actually track eye movement, making them easier to use.