Ever wondered how it would've been if you could simply blink to zoom in on far-away subjects? Even if you didn't, there's no denying the utility of such powers. Now, they can actually be real, thanks to a collaborative invention by professors from University of California-San Diego and researchers at the Harbin Institute of Technology, China. The secret? Soft biomimetic lenses that use the kinetics of the human eye as input impulses, hence changing focal length to zoom in.
In simpler words, a special compound contact lens, with multiple focal lengths, could take input from the movements of the eye. These inputs, for this experiment, used only a double blink gesture, which was easier to work with since it created the strongest signal. Once this signal was received by the lens, it would zoom in to its longest focal length, thereby giving the user telescopic vision, or eyes that could simply zoom in on whatever they took fancy to.
In slightly more technical terms, the researchers measured the eye gestures in terms of the impulse that they generated, also known as electro-oculographic signals. These signals were then programmed to make a biomimetic lens respond in a specific way, when fed with a specific gesture. For reference, a biomimetic material essential refers to any artificial material that mimics the properties of a biochemical compound, which is essentially to accurately create and test potentially life-altering inventions in the laboratory. Needless to see, a lens that allows the naked eye to zoom in is indeed a life-changing one.
The research project involved a team of seven researchers -- Jinrong Li, Yang Wang, Liwu Liu, Sheng Xu, Yanju Liu, Jinsong Leng and Shengqiang Cai, who succeeded in programming the special lenses to respond to the aforementioned signals. While it is certainly a scientific feat, those who live in hope of superheroes being real would rejoice equally with the prospect of natural zoom-in lenses. While the medical limitations of retinal focal length shift's long term damage is not known, and the researchers already have a long list of issues these could solve, the real USP for us lies simply in how cool would this tech be.
Come to think of it, this may even imply the creation of Earth's first actual, contact lenses-wearing caped crusader -- Zoom Man (or Woman). Until then, if you're interested, read the published research paper here.