TECH
07/02/2013 05:06 pm ET

Telescopic Contact Lens Enables Magnified Vision, Allows Users To Zoom In And Out (PHOTOS)

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Superman-like vision may not be so far off.

A team of researchers revealed a design for the world's first telescopic contact lens in a study published in peer-reviewed online journal Optics Express Tuesday.

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The 1.17 mm-thick prototype contains two separate optical paths: one for 2.8x magnified vision and one for regular vision. Wearers will be able see normally through the central region, while selective blocking makes it possible for the user to switch between the two types of view.

Thus, the user can effectively zoom in and out. However, the contacts cannot be used without additional hardware, just yet.

According to researcher Eric Tremblay, a scientist at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, the zoom-in function is controlled by a manual button on an accompanying set of 3D television glasses.

"It’s also feasible to control it with a wink-type gesture with some additional hardware in the glasses," Tremblay told The Huffington Post in an email.

As the researchers describe in their paper, the contact lens is intended for wearers who have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common eye condition that results in the loss of sharp, central vision, which allows people to see objects clearly. Currently, 9.1 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from AMD, according to the Macular Degeneration Association.

Though the authors wrote that they fell short of their design goals, as ExtremeTech notes, the prototype represents a significant step forward in the field, which has previously seen devices -- such as 4.4 mm-thick telescopic lens -- that would not be compatible with real-world use.

"I would say that the image quality fell short of what we wanted in the first demonstration. We’ve improved the design and fabrication for better quality in the next version, which we are building now," Tremblay told HuffPost.

Partnering with contact lens manufacturer Paragon Vision Sciences, the team is building a newer model made for human wear that could potentially be worn for up to a day. The upgrade is also expected to have better image quality.

The team will test their telescopic contact lens in a small clinic trial later this year.

See examples of the normal and magnified views in the photos, courtesy of the University of California, San Diego, below.

telescopic contact lens

telescopic contact lens

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