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Technology Science

Smart Contact Lenses 109

Iddo Genuth writes "Scientists at the University of California, Davis, have recently designed a contact lens prototype with a built-in pressure sensor using a novel process that etches tiny electrical circuits within a soft polymer material. The new development could help glaucoma patients to measure their current risk factor, thus replacing the current methods which require constant visits to a clinician."
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Smart Contact Lenses

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  • Who wants to bet on what the first non-medical use of that technology will be?

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gerafix ( 1028986 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:14PM (#24570131)
      I'm going to say some modified contacts to help soldiers kill people more efficiently. 'Cats eye' contact lenses to increase night vision (without those clumsy goggles and sensitivity to bright light...). IR contacts? That would be sweet.
      • Re:So... (Score:5, Informative)

        by jeiler ( 1106393 ) <> on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:20PM (#24570215) Journal
        Based on TFA, the lenses don't make any adaptation to vision: the only thing they do is monitor intraocular pressure.
        • There's an article? But yeah, with enough funding/time, it could very well happen. :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dorianh49 ( 988940 )
          I just hope these lenses don't render the current glaucoma testing method obsolete. I love having a blast of compressed air shot at hurricane speeds directly into my wide-open eyeball. That crap makes my year.
          • by dawich ( 945673 )
            I had never had the puff test until just recently. I've always had the physical pressure test. I prefer that...
        • That would be enough for now.
        • yeah, I want something cool.. like a HUD on my contact lenses. Why? RSS to slashdot. I work in healthcare, so being able to look at patient status on the fly would be good too.
      • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )

        I'm going to say some modified contacts to help soldiers kill people more efficiently. 'Cats eye' contact lenses to increase night vision (without those clumsy goggles and sensitivity to bright light...). IR contacts? That would be sweet.

        Lenses similar to what you describe actually already exist: []

        Light-filtering tints are a more recent development. These contact lenses are designed for sports use, because they enhance certain colors (such as optic yellow, the color of tennis balls and some softballs and golf balls), as a result of muting other colors. The result is that the ball stands out against the background and is easier to target. The lenses can also be used by spectators.

        One type of light-filtering contact lens has been developed especially for golfers, so they can better distinguish between the various greens on a golf course. Amber-tinted ones have been worn by some professional baseball players, to help filter out the blue light that reduces their ability to see the baseball clearly. Other color contacts are being developed for trap-shooters, skiers and other sports enthusiasts.

    • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sdpuppy ( 898535 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:16PM (#24570165)
      Couple the pressure signal with a slow changing colorization so that when yo blink your eyes the short term increase in pressure will cause color change (or maybe rainbow effect) that slowly goes back to normal?

      (Speaking as a person whose eye color naturally very slowly oscillates with time)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Not sure exactly what it will be. . . but what we do know for sure is that it will be porn related.
    • by BitterOldGUy ( 1330491 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:21PM (#24570229)
      Have the contacts make every woman look like a hotty?

      Frat boys reprogramming it so that they trick their buddy into doing a guy? Or a sheep?

    • I want some red LEDs in my contacts, so my eyes will look like glowing red coals in the dark.
    • As an anti-goatse device. Finally, zee goggles, zey will do something!
    • by R2.0 ( 532027 )

      Tie sensors to memory plastic, allowing the lens to deform on command and grant the wearer telescopic vision?

      Hey, Steve Austin - bionic THIS!

  • Currently the only way for patients with glaucoma to keep tabs on the disease is by visiting a clinician or a doctor who administers one of several tests to measure glaucoma's main risk factor, intraocular pressure (IOP).

    In other news, medical marijuana proponents suffer from mass depression. All's not lost. They're pinning the rest of their hopes on using it for treating the side effects of chemotherapy. Lit up again from hope.

    • It be a better argument for pot because when your pressure spikes, you have to light up, man!

      Sweet! Hey, don't Bogart!

    • Re:In other news.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by sm62704 ( 957197 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:32PM (#24570423) Journal

      The test is a probe they touch your eye with; it appears that these lenses are a miniature version. The probe used by eye doctors connects to a kleenex box-sized device with an LCD readout. You will be given this test before and after cataract surgery and vitrectomy surgery.

      Your pressure should be between 10 and 20 (10 and 20 what I don't know). After my vitrectomy surgery (NSFW) [] my occular pressure was 35, very dangerously high. I wasn't prescribed reefer, but rather some large, expensive orange pills.

      • I wasn't prescribed reefer, but rather some large, expensive orange pills.

        Marinol [] a.k.a. synthetic THC?

        I ask because they are large, expensive orange pills.

        • by sm62704 ( 957197 )

          I don't think so; they didn't look like the photo in your link; they were oblong capsule shaped, but solid. And I think I would have recognized the name "marinol" on the bottle.

      • Interesting sig you got there to go with your situation...
        • by sm62704 ( 957197 )

          If you haven't read the link, it refers to the fact that first I was "four eyes" with my coke bottle glasses, then I was "six eyes" with my contacts for nearsightedness and my reading glasses for my age related farsightedness, then I got the CrystaLens implant in my left eye for a cataract that was caused by prescribed steroid eyedrops. The implant cured the cataract, nearsightedness, and farsightedness in that eye; it's a new type that actually lets your eye focus like a young eye.

          I still wore a contact in

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by dethadol ( 976517 )
        Liker most pressures it is in mmHG. Mine was 18, which doesn't sound too high, but because of signs of damage to my optic nerve and field of vision aberations I have used Xalatan drops (a prostoglandin analogue) and this has reduced the pressure to 11 mmHG.
      • Actually, there are a pile of ways to measure IOP, but all of them rely on applying some known force to the cornea and seeing how much effect that force has upon the surface. The old-school device was called a Schiotz tonometer, and it used a plunger with weights. The patient had to be supine (flat on their back) and lay perfectly still while the doctor placed the plunger in the middle of the cornea and fiddled with the weights to get the plunger to drop a certain distance. The "gold standard" today is t

        • by sm62704 ( 957197 )

          Now that my memory was jogged it was indeed Diamox. The only instrument they used to guage the pressure was a Tono-Pen (and I only know that from your description of it).

          Very informative, thank you.

    • by maxume ( 22995 )

      In California, they prescribe it for pretty much anything, including anxiety:,0,1639734.column []

  • Finally (Score:3, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:23PM (#24570259) Homepage Journal
    Soon this guy [] will be able to get rid of that Delco air filter on his face.
  • Electrical circuits in my eye...who wants the first to test this one out?
    • Well, it's already been tested in humans, and probably before that animals. So... sorry whoever does.

  • by wiggles ( 30088 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:28PM (#24570349)

    is contact lenses with built in nanoscale light sources that can project microtext and images directly onto my retinae.

    • You son of a... you hacked my eyes! Where are you!?
    • by Samah ( 729132 )
      As awesome as this sounds, I'm not sure how it could be effectively implemented as the human eye has a very narrow "100% visibility" angular range. Look at the slashdot slogan image at the top of the page and focus on the word "news". Now try to read "matters" without moving your eye. If you didn't know what the word was already, you'd have a very difficult time of it. The only way I can think of this working is if the HUD were rendered in relation to your head, and not your eyes. Then you could look ar
      • There's also the problem of focus. Unless you are projecting directly onto the retina, you aren't going to be able to see a diffuse light source on your lens as anything other than a blurry blob of colour.
        • by Samah ( 729132 )
          As I was writing that comment I was thinking of a toy made by Sega that I used to play with my mates when I was younger called Lock-On []. The headsets (which used to get very sweaty) had a flip down see-through lens (similar to sunglasses) that simply reflected the 7-segment display on the front of the headset (the number was displayed mirrored so that the "HUD" would appear correctly).
          I used to win pretty much every game such that I had to handicap myself by forfeiting all my power shots before the game an
    • is contact lenses with built in nanoscale light sources that can project microtext and images directly onto my retinae.

      The image wouldn't move. Your brain will filter it out fairly quickly.

      There was a research project that did this awhile back, a camera watching your pupils moves the screen to exactly match their twitching. To you, the image disappears.

  • by AioKits ( 1235070 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:28PM (#24570357)
    He feels no pain, he can't be reasoned with, and he sees what you did there! Now get off his lawn!
  • ... for the model that will allow me to see these [].
  • My only question is how you people can stand putting an object into your eye. I can't even stand eye drops, and given the amount of pot I smoke, that's a lot of discomfort I'm willing to put up with before sticking something in my eye.

    Thankfully, glasses are a good option. Which really makes me wonder, why anyone uses contact lenses when glasses work very well and don't require you to stick things in your eyes.

    • Two words. Peripheral vision.
      • Indeed. Try driving with a REAL blind spot. My vision is so bad I won't even leave the house unless I have contacts in. Glasses just do NOT cut it for non-household chores. Not to mention my cat really appreciates it when I don't step on his tail...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      Did you enjoy your first drag, or was it relatively unpleasant?

      Like anything else, if you practice, you get used to it. (I haven't worn contacts in a while, but I just reached up and touched my eyeball, didn't really bother me any)

      • I wish I could mod you something worse than troll for making me imagine touching my own eyeball.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by maxume ( 22995 )

          That's unfortunate. Maybe there is a reason that you are highly averse to it, but having worn contacts for a couple of years, I have no problem doing it.

          I just did it again to make sure.

    • by eredin ( 1255034 )
      When you go from needing glasses to having glasses, it's great because you can see.

      When you go from glasses to contacts, you realize that wearing glasses is like looking out through a slit in a box. When you get out of the box everything you can see is in focus. (And for those with really thick glasses, no more rounded doorframes!)
    • Re:Ow my eyes (Score:5, Informative)

      by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @01:14PM (#24570971)

      Contacts are greatly superior to glasses in a couple important ways.

      First, they give you a much better field of corrected vision. Almost any pair of glasses will have large gaps around the edges, and the styles popular today are particularly bad as they tend to be small. Any pair of glasses that covers the entire range that your eyeball can point will look extremely ridiculous. Practically, this means that you must move your head a lot more to see things clearly when you're wearing glasses. As a pilot, the increased field of corrected vision achieved by contact lenses is by itself sufficient advantage to justify using them.

      Second, distortion. Glasses distort everything within the area that they correct. How much they distort depends exactly on how big they are and how strong they are. If you have strong, large glasses then there is significant distortion around the outside edges which can be distracting. If you instead use smaller glasses, then this is better but the field of view problem I discussed above is worse. If your glasses offer only mild correction then this isn't so important.

      The "sticking something in your eye" thing is vastly overstated. It's just not a very big deal. Modern contact lenses are soft and conform to your eye's shape. They are designed to be wet and to retain water like the rest of your eye. When they are in it is difficult to feel that they are there, although if you are nearsighted then you can often feel the rim of the lenses as your eyes move. This feeling is not uncomfortable once you get used to it, which just takes a few minutes the first time you use them, and decreases to zero as you continue to wear them. Getting them in and out is also not a big deal once you practice it a bit. My first week started out with each morning and night being an adventure in getting the lenses in and out, and by the end of the week it was pretty easy. Now it takes me just a few seconds per eye and there is no discomfort. Done properly, your fingers only ever touch the lens, not your eye. So the eye only touches the lens, which is wet and made from a material that doesn't irritate the eye.

      I regularly wear both, and I can tell you that the problems with glasses are just as big as the problems with contact lenses, it's just that you're used to the glasses and contact lenses are foreign to you. Sometimes if I wear my contacts for a couple of days straight, switching to glasses makes me dizzy for a few minutes due to the distortion. You got used to that distortion, and you'll get used to contacts if you care to try them. Personally I recommend it.

      • by R2.0 ( 532027 )

        "Modern contact lenses are soft and conform to your eye's shape. They are designed to be wet and to retain water like the rest of your eye."

        HA! Pansy! I've been wearing semi-rigid lenses for over 25 years. Newfangled soft lenses - feh!

        That being said, you just get used to poking around in your eye. Drug addicts and diabetics get used to sticking needles in themselves, and gays get used to having other things stuck in them. Never underestimate the human capacity for tolerating short term discomfort for l

        • I've had Gas-perms for about 23 years. back in the day it was like sticking pieces of glass in your eye. I still wear glasses sometimes. Usually when I have to get up in the middle of the to slay the monsters in the kids closet. It's really no big thing any more.I can do them now with out a mirror. The one thing I do dislike is the cost. bi-toric lenses are brutally expensive. I'm just now starting to get my right eye fitted correctly. I've had four different shapes in the last 3 months. not fun or cheap.

        • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

          HA! Pansy! I've been wearing semi-rigid lenses for over 25 years. Newfangled soft lenses - feh!

          Same here. Gas-permeable hard lenses for the past 15+ years, and not bloody likely to switch to soft lenses.

          Better, longer-lasting, only marginally less comfortable (I presume, since people tell me soft lenses are more comfortable, and I don't even notice mine).

          • Just curious, when you say "better", what actually makes them better?

            As for longer lasting, mine last a month (although I've been cheating and using them a bit longer) before I throw them away and get new ones. The cost is like an extra ice cream cone or two per month. I have no real desire for them to last longer, especially since this makes losing them much less of a problem.

            • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

              Just curious, when you say "better", what actually makes them better?

              They have stopped my eyesight from getting worse, which is something soft lenses cannot do AFAIK.
              That alone should be enough.

              Additionally, I've had this pair for almost eight years; I have them cleaned/polished twice a year, I wash them in tap water and liquid soap or detergent, and I keep them in tap water or saline solution. I spend next to nothing on special solutions and detergents. They are rather resistant to physical damage, they do not need to be hydrated... perfect for a lazy, careless slob like m

              • If your eyesight is getting worse in a way that hard lenses can prevent, that's a clear advantage to be sure.

                Again just curious, how much did your pair cost, and how much does it cost to get them cleaned and polished?

                For what it's worth, I bought two large bottles of the special cleaning solution for about $17 a few months ago. So far I've used about one quarter of one bottle. There's no real work involved it using it, just sprinkle it on the lens, then dunk the lens into the stuff in the little holder and

                • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

                  Again just curious, how much did your pair cost, and how much does it cost to get them cleaned and polished?

                  Eight years ago, when I bought them, they cost about 100 Euros. Having them cleaned costs less than 4 Euros, and I'm not even getting the cheapest cleaning available (proximity counts for something, too).
                  All in all, let's say that they cost me 20 Euros a year. The detergent cost me 1 Euro for a half-liter bottle, about 2 years ago, so I'll count it as free.

                  Now, mind you, many people will recommend replacing the lenses every two or three or four years, as well as only using special sterile detergents and so

              • I think the soft lenses I have are better for a lazy person. I put them in at the start of a month, leave them in for a month, then take them out and throw them away at the end of the month. The really big advantage is that I can see clearly from as soon as I wake up.
      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        I gave up on contacts about 20 years ago. I'm prone to corneal erosions, and any time I got dust in my eye, it hurt like hell --- sharp stabbing pain.

        About a year ago I did PRK (wasn't a good candidate for LASIK, alas). Love it.

      • Whatever. My glasses are +5, and I'm not replacing them any time soon.

        • I think it's important that we determine what they are +5 of. Presumably, they are +5 perception.

          However, it is also very reasonable that, as glasses are often said to make one look intelligent, that they are +5 Intelligence or even +5 Charisma (I like talking to people that look intelligent).

          Personally, if I could get me some glasses of +5 stupid code comprehension, I'd take them. As it stands, the only drop I ever got from my optician was a glasses of +1 focus.

        • Don't be so damned dismissive. Nobody's forcing you to use them. If you prefer to stick with glasses, fine, go for it. But don't act like people who wear contacts are all crazy, or whatever. Newsflash: people are different.

      • I attempted to wear contacts for a couple of years, but eventually my severe lifelong allergies won out. But I know exactly what you mean about reduced field-of-vision and more head movements (also your eyes are constantly making more minute movements, wearing out the muscles surrounding the eye). Because of 25 years of being in front of a monitor, at the age of 33 I now require bifocals.
        • Because of 25 years of being in front of a monitor, at the age of 33 I now require bifocals.

          Hope you're enjoying things as they are because in a few more years, your vision will change again, and you'll discover that you need trifocals, two pairs of bifocals, or a motley collection of glasses in various prescriptions.

          This typically happens anytime after 40. For people whose sight was 20/20 their entire life, they suddenly discover they need reading glasses because their eye muscles can't cope with the dema

      • by ynohoo ( 234463 )
        glasses have the advantage of being easy to remove. I tried contacts, but found the inability to relax my eyes to irritating.

        As for laser surgery, why risk permanently damage for the sake of vanity?
    • by cp.tar ( 871488 )

      Well, when I was ten, my thoughts were pretty much in the same venue, sans marijuana. However, my eyesight kept getting worse, so my parents talked me into wearing contacts. (And it was no picnic for them, for at the time, they cost their whole month's salary.)

      I was pretty afraid of wearing them, of losing them, of dislodging them, and to this day, whenever a speck of dirt or dust or a bug gets into my eye it hurts like crap.
      On the other hand, contact lenses give you great peripheral vision, they don't fog

    • I thought the same thing at first, but after getting talked into getting them by a girl I work with I think there great though. Also you never touch your eye, you touch the lens and feel nothing. Most of the time (99%) I don't even know I have them in as I usually forget about them. If you touch your eye you're doing something seriously wrong.

    • I broke out into a cold sweat the first time I put on contact lenses (17 years ago). But after a few days wearing them felt normal. Mine are hard contact lenses, BTW--they correct my astigmatism and slow the progression of myopia, which soft contact lenses can't do.

  • by JoshDM ( 741866 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @12:29PM (#24570383) Homepage Journal

    Glaucoma? Medical applications? Pshaw. I'd rather hear more about the cosmetic uses [] of custom contact lenses.

    • Said the guy who doesn't have glaucoma yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 )
      I don't know man. Even as big of an anime fan as I am, there's just something unnatural looking about the big eyes (and her skin tone) in the picture in the linked article. Maybe some circles find that "adorable", but to me it just looks creepy. Personally, I think it's because the anime/manga style is a stylized caricature of reality, and trying to duplicate that back into realty tends to look... strange.
      • by R2.0 ( 532027 )

        Given the fact that it makes her look under 5 years old, "creepy" is an understatement.

      • by Yeef ( 978352 )

        Personally, I think it's because the anime/manga style is a stylized caricature of reality, and trying to duplicate that back into realty tends to look... strange.

        Quite the understatement [].

  • you will become one with the Borg
  • But smoking weed is so much more fun.
    • No kidding... I was HOPING to get glaucoma so I could smoke legally. Our medical industry is taking the fun out of treatment. Next thing you know they'll cut our dicks off and give us aluminum cyborg penises as a cure for impotency!
  • Why exactly couldn't they do this with some conducting polymer? Is it because of feature size? I have no idea how pressure is sensed, so I had to ask.
  • require the constant visit of a clinician.

    So, currently the clinicians must be working in pairs? Because otherwise, one of them going to the bathroom will make the visit not constant?.. Or do the unfortunate patients have to modify their facilities to have two bowls?

  • by pragma_x ( 644215 ) on Tuesday August 12, 2008 @04:57PM (#24574871) Journal

    Guy: Dude, you seem to be blinking an awful lot, are you okay?

    Other Guy: Yea, its this damn "check eyeball" light in my contact lens - it keeps blinking on and off. Maybe I should go have it checked out.

    Guy: Naw, you probably didn't have the cap screwed on tight enough when you took it out last night.

  • Scientists discover, engineers create. If we want to promote engineering as an occupation, maybe people could actually acknowledge this distinction now and then.

If I have not seen so far it is because I stood in giant's footsteps.