A contact lens that zooms in when you blink:
Most soft robots are controlled manually or pre-programmed but the lenses mimic the natural electric signals in the human eyeball that are active even when the eye itself is closed.
Researchers from the University of California San Diego harnessed this natural charge to control the lens.
They measured the electrical potential of the eye – called the “electro-oculographic signal” – and then made lenses that would respond to that activity.
Lead researcher Shengqiang Cai from the university told New Scientist: “Even if your eye cannot see anything, many people can still move their eyeball and generate this electro-oculographic signal.”
The lens is made from polymers that expand when electric current is applied.
It is controlled using five electrodes surrounding the eye which act like muscles. When the polymer becomes more convex the lens effectively zooms in.
Scientists hope one day this could help create a prosthetic eye or a camera that can be controlled using eyes alone.
“The system developed in the current study has the potential to be used in visual prostheses, adjustable glasses, and remotely operated robotics in the future,” researchers wrote in the paper published in Advanced Functional Materials.