back to article New flexible lens works like the one in your eye - and could replace it

Scientists have created an artificial eye lens out of 800,000 layers of plastic that could revolutionise eye implants and aerial surveillance. Based on research from 2008 published in journal Optics Express, the new plastic eye closely copies the structure of the human eye and other natural materials including tendons and …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yawn, another crackpot idea. If such ideas had merit there wouldn't be photographers lugging around 20 kilos of camera and lens.

    I thought fluid lenses were the next big thing?

    1. Mike007

      isn't that like responding to the announcement of the first portable computer by saying these things will never be that portable - if such crazy ideas had merit then why would people have computers the size of entire rooms?

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    2. Whitter

      liquid lenses

      There was a prototype oil lens a bunch of years ago, simply using an applied voltage to change the surface curvature. Never heard whatever happened to it.

      1. Ocular Sinister

        Re: liquid lenses

        They actually exist as a product you can buy:

        No idea whether they are any good or not, but they are certainly expensive!

      2. Robin Bradshaw

        Re: liquid lenses

        If you would like to see a liquid lens in action and details of the usb webcam it came out of Ben Krasnow has a video demonstrating it here:

    3. James Hughes 1


      Yet another fuckwitted comment from an AC who's idea of innovation is using his left hand.

    4. Jay Holmes

      @Anonymous Coward 1350 Dumbass!!!

      Why is this a crackpot ida? This idea does has merit and the fact that photographers are lugging around tonnes of lenses and cameras doesnt change this. It's still a prototype therefore not in general supply. The research may have been from 2008, but that was just research not actual development.

      I think that this is absolutely brilliant especially the medical applications that this has the potential to be used for. Although it will be looked at primarily for military applications which is fine by me because that funding will eventually trickle down.

      1. Dave 126

        Re: @Anonymous Coward 1350 Dumbass!!!

        Flexible lenses have been done before- the application I remember is spectacles for developing countries where grinding lenses to order is impractical. The spectacles that were created liquid-filled lenses and a syringe going down each arm, for adjustment. Once adjusted for the patient, the syringes could be removed.

        Okay, each pair was more complicated that traditional specs, but were still fairly cheap to mass produce and didn't require the skill and equipment for grinding the lenses or the logistical headache of getting them to the right person.

        The technique described in this Reg article is more sophisticated, as the bending of light occurs through the lens, not just at its boundary with air.

    5. NomNomNom

      what the hell is a "crackpot" anyway and why has it become synonymous with a bad idea? If anything having a dedicated pot is probably a sensible way of storing crack.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: NomNomNom

        Every time you ask a question like that my brain forces me to look it up :(

    6. Steve Todd

      Variable lenses aren't much good in high quality optics

      As the better lenses have multiple elements that are tuned together to correct for chromatic aberrations and provide flat focal planes (a simple lens has a hemispherical focal planes), but this kind of thing is likely to be useful to people who've had their eye's lenses removed due to conditions like cataracts.

    7. Anonymous Coward

      [1989] What's this, an LCD monitor? What a crackpot idea! If it had any merit, there wouldn't be anyone using CRTs! Yawn!

      Seriously.... how is it possible for someone to be interested enough in IT to read The Reg but so clueless as to think, apparently, that no invention is ever or has ever been in the early stages of development?

  2. Vic


    This is fabulous news for those of us with eyes of advancing years...


  3. Kevin Johnston

    Scarey yet indicative of my predictive powers

    We were having our usual lunchtime 'brainstorm' on Monday and contact lenses got mentioned. I boldly stated that a proper lens would need 'autofocus' capability but we were never really likely to see that....

    48 hours!!!!!! you could at least have given it a week so that everyone forgot the conversation but no...

  4. Scott Pedigo

    That gives me hope that some day I can get rid of the reading glasses. I don't have a problem that traditional laser eye surgery can correct, as far as I know anyway. I can see objects a few feet away perfectly clearly, but my distance vision and close vision are both crap, since my lenses have hardened with age and my eyes can no longer flex them enough to focus on close or distant objects. This lens technology sounds like just the thing for a lens replacement. For now, I'd rather live with the reading glasses than risk a surgery, where there is always at least a small chance that something will go wrong, but maybe some day...

    1. frank ly


      Have you tried varifocal lenses? They take a couple of weeks to get used to (don't get cheap ones), but I've had them for years and I'm very happy with them. An alternative for your particular problem might be carefully prescribed trifocals...?

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: @Scott

        re Varifocals. I tried. I walked around for a month feeling that I'd wandered into a nightmare with invisible horrors haunting my peripheral vision. (I exaggerate slightly, but I did keep getting startled by nothings). I didn't get used to it, so I threw the expensive experiment away. Apparently I'm more conscious of my peripheral vision than most other people. I immensely dislike those trendy tiny-lens spectacles for the same reason, and wear the "classic aviator" sort.

        1. Kobus Botes

          Re: @Scott

          Nigel, I fully concur with you. As far as I am concerned, multifocal lenses are the spawn of the devil. I was forever off-balance and could not see properly anywhere. I had to continually move my head this way and that, trying to focus (I must have looked like a 90-year old with a trembling head). Working on a computer was impossible (and 70% of time that was where I was stuck).

          @Scott: Lasik surgery was the best thing I ever did as far as my eyes are concerned (I was hopelessly myopic: ~ -5). Slight discomfort for the first day or two after surgery and no flares/haloes around lights at night (which was the part that most concerned me). The best part was not having to feel around for my glasses when getting out of bed.

          I did try soft contact lenses many years ago, but was told before the time that my eyes would be too sensitive (fair skin, red(dish) hair and green eyes). He was right - about an hour in it felt as if someone had put 60 grit sandpaper in my eyes.

          As with you, my close-up vision is no more, so I need reading glasses.

          Here's hoping that this tech will find its way into eyes sooner rather than later.

          1. James Hughes 1

            Re: @Scott @Kobus

            Sound similar to my contact experience when I was much younger than I am now. Pain in the arse to even get them in my eyes, then felt like I was staring down a kaleidoscope half the time, with associated pain.

            Slight red hair (No, not enough to be ginger), fair skin,although blue eyes. Now in my mid/late forties, need reading glasses AND long ranges ones. It's a right PITA. Age is a bitch.

          2. Vic

            Re: @Scott

            > I did try soft contact lenses many years ago

            Contact lenses have changed quite a bit in recent years. I wear mine for a month at a time, and I rarely even remember they're there.

            Once a month, I have to take them out. I wake up blind the next morning, and wonder what's gone wrong (for a couple of seconds, anyawy).


        2. 100113.1537

          Re: @Scott

          I feel a bit the same. With my contact lenses in I have excellent distance vision, but my arms have been getting shorter and shorter over the years, meaning I now need reading glasses. I ditched the idea of laser surgery since I can read quite well with my lenses out (good for reading in bed at night. However, I need different strength reading glasses for computer work as the screen is further away (and I have obviously lost even more flexibility in my inbuilt lenses), but without my contacts I need to hunch forward in my chair!

          A flexible lens (replacing either my contacts or my own lens) would be rather useful, I think.

  5. Joe Harrison

    I am fed up with these stories

    I am fed up with reading headlines like "Boffins Invent Really Fabulous Thing" and you spend your afternoon visualising all the really cool stuff you could do with it. Then you never hear of it again in your life ever.

    1. Dave 126

      Re: I am fed up with these stories

      Aww diddums, there there... flying cars, meal pills, day trips to the moon and invisible sheds aren't everything.

      : D

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: I am fed up with these stories

        Hey, invisible sheds are already here and I have one.

        Have a look in my garden, I'll bet you can't see it.

        1. Charles 9

          Re: I am fed up with these stories

          Hey, is that your invisible dog running out through the gap in the fence? And BTW, funny you mention an invisible shed. See, it rained last night, yet I see no dry spot where the shed blocked the rain. Nor any impression in the lawn where a shed should've pressed down.

          But to the original poster, point taken. What about holding on the articles until the things are no less than 6 months from market. Save the article space for stuff we can actually USE.

  6. Nigel 11

    Something wrong here

    Applications of the new lens include lens implants for people with defective or diseased lens

    We've had those for decades. Nothing fancy is needed to replace a diseased lens (typically a cataract), just a moulded acrylic lens implant with the same optical parameters as the natural lens. Nature focusses the eye with muscles around the eye stretching or squeezing the eyeball, thereby moving the lens in or out a bit.

    Someone I know with such an implant swears that it's better than what nature gave him in the first place, so it seems unlikely to me that any further improvement is either necessary or possible.

    Before implants, they just removed the clouded natural lens and gave the patient cataract spectacles, which he could focus by moving them to and fro along his nose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Something wrong here

      Current lense implants are fixed focal length. Currently these are my only option if I want to ditch the specs, but I'm way young and specs work to well to consider such a draconian step. They're a big improvement if you have cataracts or other severe lense problems, but rubbish for everybody else.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Jan 0 Silver badge

      Re: Something wrong here

      No, something fancy is needed. The muscles 'round the lens change its shape.

      An acrylic lens is rigid. What we need is to implant flexible lenses and the microsurgical skills to attach them to the ciliary body. It's true that you can also make changes to the focal length of the eye by stretching or squeezing the eyeball, but it's hard to sustain for more than a few seconds. (For example "squinting" lets a long sighted person see close up objects more clearly. Squinting means screwing your face up around the eyes to increase the curvature of the front of the eyeball and has nothing to do with being squint eyed.)

      An acrylic lens is a wonderful improvement for an elderly cataract sufferer, but you wouldn't be so made up if you were in your twenties.

      1. mccp

        Re: Squinting

        I think that the more likely reason for improved vision when you squint is that you effectively reduce the aperture through which you are seeing. When you squint your eyelashes create multiple small apertures that reduce that amount of light reaching your eye, but also increase the depth of focus of your retina thereby bringing close up objects into better focus.

        Mine's the one with the titanium frame hipster specs in the pocket.

      2. Nigel 11

        Re: Something wrong here

        My knowledge of cataract implants and how the eye works was out of date. Nothing Google / Wikipaedia couldn't fix. Yes, implants used to be rigid, which was less than ideal. Today, they are flexible. This seems pretty obvious - if one can make a biocompatible material with all the desirable physical properties of a natural eye lens, then one should. And today, they do. So, something slightly fancy needed, and available.

        1. Infernoz Bronze badge

          Re: Something wrong here

          If you read the article, the flexible lenses are only for ease of implantation, so the eye will not vary their focal length!

  7. Robert Grant

    Get this in testing as soon as possible

    I want this ready for when I'm 60. Also I want to see through walls.

    I will accept actual see-through walls as a second prize.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Get this in testing as soon as possible

      >> Also I want to see through walls.

      Yeah, yeah and not to look through girls' clothes at all. That just hadn't occurred to you.........right?

      1. NomNomNom

        Re: Get this in testing as soon as possible

        if you want to look through girls clothes go to one of the bigger Tesco stores on a Sunday morning. The clothes section is usually empty and you can look through as many girls clothes as possible, even try on some of their shoes.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Asimov - Marooned off Vesta!

    I can't quite remember (I read the book decades ago...) isn't this anopticon? Or was that something else...

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Asimov - Marooned off Vesta!

      Close....that was an anoptikon (need to put the indefinite article in or you get the confusion that was important to the plot line)....used changeable 'fields' to focus light and the fountain pen sized version that they had kept as a souvenir would do telescope to microscope (ish).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Asimov - Marooned off Vesta!

        Ah yes... :)

        Time to google it and refresh my memory!

  9. kyza

    Does this mean I'll be able to get superhero-style zoom vision in my contact lenses?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll take three.

    One for each eye so I won't need reading glasses in another five years, and the third for my smartphone, so I can have a decent optical zoom.

    Those who are saying "if this is so great why are photographers lugging around 20 kilos of lenses" all I can say is:

    1) because these aren't available yet

    2) the problems you need to solve for either eye implants or smartphone lenses are quite different from the problems you need to solve for 500mm ultra zoom lenses for paparazzi

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