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Brief Published: 10 Feb 2014

Tactile Contact Lens for the Blind


Engineering researchers at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University have developed an electrode-fitted contact lens that enables the wearer to ‘feel’ objects.

Conceived by professor Zeev Zalevsky, head of the Electro-Optics programme, the device is worn like any other contact lens. It is fitted with electrodes, which receive signals from a remote camera – such as one found in a smartphone or Google Glass device. As the wearer points the camera at an object, it translates the image into electronic Braille, allowing the contact lens to “excite” the cornea with specific tactile sensations.

In the way a visually impaired person learns traditional Braille, a wearer would also learn the sensations to allow them to build up a physical picture of their environment. “It’s like reading Braille – not with your fingertips, but with your eyes,” Zalevsky said in a statement. “We can encode an image with many more points than the Braille system, and use these to stimulate the surface of the cornea.”

Zalevsky’s lens is still in the testing and prototype and stage, but follows other sight-enabling technologies such as the Smart Contact Lens – capable of administering treatment for glaucoma – and the Argus II prosthetic eye device. For more pioneering body-hacking projects, see Technological Body Modification and Next: Designing Life, part of our Macro Trend Balanced Values.