Engineers at the University of California San Diego have designed a telescopic contact lens that can switch between normal and magnified vision by using slightly modified 3D television glasses. The new lens could ultimately be used to improve vision for patients suffering from eye disease, including age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, a condition that causes loss of vision in the center of the visual field. Patients typically cannot read or recognize faces.
Joseph Ford, professor of electrical engineering at the University of California and principal investigator for the project said, “While there is a great deal of work still ahead, we see a clear path to a comfortable low-vision aid powered by a contact lens, that will help a significant number of people who have impaired vision.”
The contact lens developed by Ford’s team is one millimeter thick. Researchers used aluminum mirrors, fit tightly together, to create a ring-shaped telescope embedded in the contact lens. The center of the lens allows for normal, non-magnified vision. Its periphery, where the telescope is located, magnifies images 2.8 times.
The telescopic contact lens, once fine-tuned, will be less invasive than the miniature telescopes that can currently be implanted into patients’ eyes. In addition, the lens the researchers developed does a better job at collecting light. The lens is also less bulky than telescopes mounted on glasses that are currently available to help patients with impaired vision. The contact lens’ optics make it possible to switch between normal and magnified vision by combining the contact lenses with glasses such as the “active shutter” glasses worn to watch some 3D televisions.
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