How do smart contact lenses work?
That depends on what kind of lenses you’re talking about. Essentially, smart lenses use technology to give you benefits that go beyond just seeing clearly. Smart lens technology in the future could let you take photographs with your eyes or monitor your blood glucose levels, it sounds like something from a science fiction film but this technology is already being created!
Companies like Samsung, Columbia University Medical Centre and Sony are developing new and exciting technology to improve our vision. Samsung are developing smart lenses that will allow you to project images in front of you, take photographs just by blinking and connect to your mobile phone. In 2014, Google planned to develop its own smart contact lenses for diabetics to help them with monitoring glucose. As of 2018, the Google contact lens was discontinued because there wasn’t a strong enough correlation between tear glucose and blood glucose, but other companies are already trying to make this technology work for them.
Already on the market are contact lenses that can deliver medicine over time, making the hassle of eye drops a thing of the past. Another innovative lens already being sold are transition lenses, built on the same idea as transition glasses. We go into more detail about the amazing new technology for contact lenses that could be available soon, as well as the ones you can buy right now.
Transition contact lenses
Bright lights can make a dramatic difference to contact wearers and their vision. People with light sensitivity especially struggle with bright lights which can cause pain. Transition lenses adjust to the changing light in your surroundings, helping you see clearly as you move from light to dark. In 2018, Acuvue released their new Acuvue OASYS With Transitions lenses, allowing your eyes to adapt to changes of light.
These smart lenses also block harmful UV rays and blue light that come from mobile phone, laptop and tablet screens. Too much exposure to blue light can damage the retina which can lead to blindness, so opting for these contacts could help preserve the health of your eyes. It's important to note that transition lenses are not an alternative to sunglasses! Sunglasses and transition lenses should be worn at the same time to ensure you entire eye is protected from UV light.
Auto-focusing contact lenses
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have eyes that could auto-focus in a millisecond? Researchers are now developing contact lenses to do just that. This could be brilliant news for people with eye conditions such as presbyopia (long-sightedness). We have Hongrui Jiang to thank for this ingenious technology, a professor of engineering at Wisconsin University. Jiang was inspired by the elephant nose fish and its unusual eye shape. The elephant nose fish is native to Africa and has uniquely shaped eyes to help them see clearly in the dark and muddy water.
Google have teamed up with medicine manufacturer Novartis to create auto-focusing contact lenses. Although they hit pause on human testing for these lenses in 2016, they still plan to release the product within the next five years.
Drug-delivery contact lenses
Eye drops can be difficult to use, irritate the eye and in some cases cause side effects. Often only a small amount of the eye drops are actually absorbed through the eye, sometimes as little as 5%. The pain and difficulty of this causes a lot of patients not to use the eye drops as often as they should. Drug-delivery contact lenses are the perfect alternative.
These smart contact lenses can deliver medicine to the eye gradually over time. As well as improved application compared to eye drops, this method improves the speed and the amount of medicine that is distributed to the eye with little to no side effects. These lenses would be helpful to people with dry eye conditions and glaucoma, but it could also be useful to help patients recover post-surgery.
Developed by Rowan University and Auburn University, these lenses should be ready for human trials in 2019.
Thermal vision lenses
Developers at the University of Michigan say it could be possible to put thermal vision technology into contact lenses. This technology would allow soldiers to see better at night, allowing them to sense humans, animals and devices like mobile phones through the heat they produce. Although there are infrared detectors already in use, these thermal contact lenses would eliminate the need for carrying around large and bulky cooling equipment.
Would you love to move between normal and magnified vision? We would too! Luckily for us, scientists have now created contact lenses that can zoom your vision in and out like a telescope. These lenses have fitted mirrors in the central part of the lens, with the use of 3D glasses, the contact lens wearer can zoom in and out of their surroundings with ease.This would be especially useful for people with age-related Macular degeneration (AMD). Those with AMD can see through the perimeter of their eyes clearly but the centre of their vision is blurry or missing.
These lenses have been made into a prototype and tested on a human sized model of the eye, but more refinements still need to be made and clinical trials are planned for late 2019.
What could the future look like?
In the future we could be experiencing augmented reality through our contact lenses, allowing us to display images, play videos and open web browsers right in our line of vision. Soon we could be taking pictures just by blinking, conjuring city maps in front of us as we walk, and seeing objects, once blurry in the foreground, come into focus. Whatever exciting new innovations come out next in the world of contact lenses, we’ll be sure to let you know about them here at Feel Good Contacts.