Contact lenses by themselves are quite an extraordinary invention, but when you start adding all sorts of crazy features to them they become so much better. We already know that night vision contacts are being worked on and they will allegedly allow us to see in the dark once the final product is released. However, it seems that researches have come up with something equally interesting in the form of contact lenses that allow their owner to zoom in and out at will. The futuristic optics are being developed with funding from DARPA and have been presented during this year’s AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) conference, the organization which publishes Science magazine.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “man, I could really use these zooming contact lenses to spy on some people.” That thought had crossed my mind as well, however, this product is not being developed for our personal amusement I’m afraid. The main purpose here will be to help elderly people, the majority of whom are suffering from age-related macular degeneration, which leads to the partial loss of vision. These zooming contact lenses should aid said people by enhancing the parts of their retina which are still working. The wearer of these futuristic telescopes will be able to active a 3x zoom by winking with their right eye and return to normal when needed by winking with their left eye.
All that being said, there’s a bit of a catch here. The zooming contact lenses do not work by themselves and they need to be coupled with a special pair of electronic glasses. What’s more, the current prototype of the optics system can not be used for more than half an hour at a time because the lenses do not allow oxygen in. However, researches are working hard to come up with a solution for this problem. As interesting as this idea is, if the researchers can’t find a way to make the contact lenses breathable, then it’s unlikely that this will turn into a viable product any time soon. It’s worth mentioning that this idea has been around for some time, but a relatively reliable and functional prototype has only been unveiled a short while ago.
As for why DARPA is behind this, the zooming contact lenses were initially meant to be used for military purposes, and probably still will be. The initial plan was to use the telescopes for scouting purposes by equipping them on flying drones. But since the technology is now evolving, the next step may very well be to grant human soldiers a form of super vision by allowing them to see three times (or more) as for as they would normally do. Granted, soldiers already have binoculars that can perform the exact same function, but I’m sure many wouldn’t mind replacing them with a pair of hi-tech zooming contact lenses. Add to that the aforementioned night vision feature and you’ll have what can only be described as the beginning of a real super soldier.