Clinical tests are underway for a type of auto-regulating lens that could make contact lenses and eyeglasses a thing of the past.
The implantable ‘Bionic Lens’ device created by Canadian company Ocumetics Technology, is designed to incorporate artificial intelligence, electronics and interactive technologies to become an upgraded version of the human biological lens.
Its inventor Dr Garth Webb, an optometrist with 40 years experience, presented the device during the Superhuman Summit 2016 in Vancouver. It could be released to the public as early as 2019.
Equal to the size of a human eye lens, the foldable intraocular device is surgically implanted through a 2.7 mm incision using the same process as cataract surgery.
Initial tests have shown that the device can restore vision at all distances without causing visual clarity problems, while its inventors also claim that in the future it may be able to improve on 20/20 vision threefold.
It does this through auto-regulation; within the eye, the device connects to the muscles responsible for controlling the lens curvature of our natural lenses, which allows it to focus at different ranges – potentially even beyond the capability of normal sight.
Webb also says the lens possesses augmented reality capabilities and a syst that can be used in controlled drug delivery during therapy or treatment of eye disorders.
“We have developed the Bionic Lens to, in its default mode, make our lives function better in their normal realm and in its augmented capacity to allow for us to integrate seamlessly with the entire digital world,” Webb said.
“My humble perception is, that us human beings will be the centre of artificial intelligence activity. So, I believe that we are going to filter and chaperon artificial intelligence that will be either around our head, or on our watch, or maybe both.
“It is, if you will, augmenting the human beyond what we normally anticipate.”
However, the device is not a cure-all solution for eye disorders or diseases, as it won’t be able to treat colour-blindness, cloudy corneas, severe macular degeneration, severe genetic retinal diseases or torn or damaged optic nerves.
It also comes at a steep price for first users, with predictions landing between $3,000–4,000 for each lens, exclusive of the cost of surgery.