Magnetic contact lenses can be used to track eye movements and control different kinds of devices. In 2007, it was learned that the United States Navy’s office of Naval Research was working on a patent after developing and testing a new device which included magnetic contact lenses, and a sensor component. The special lenses are being developed in an effort to find a way to track eye movements. This invention and equipment based on it can assist not only the military, but many other people, and types of businesses.

The magnetic components of the contact lens are embedded within layers of a contact lens material, in order to keep the eye from being injured. The magnetic pieces could not touch the eye surface, because if they did, it would cause damage to the cornea, the layer of protective cells covering the eyes. The layers of contact lens material that the magnetic components are embedded in are made of PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate). Some hard contact lenses are made from PMMA until the 1980s, and were very popular, but with the discovery of newer, more breathable materials, have almost disappeared from the market. PMMA is also known as Lucite.

The magnetic components of the contact lenses would be worn, as well as a magnetic sensor which would be positioned on the side of the head. This electronic sensor would detect any change in the magnetic field, and these changes would be interpreted by a microcomputer, also referred to as a microcontroller.  This information would then be sent to a computer that is equipped with some type of analytical software. Scientists working on this project believe that this kind of apparatus would be more accurate for tracking even the smallest, fastest eye movements that are sometimes not detected on video eye tracking equipment.

Hands-free Navigation Systems

Research and development of magnetic contact lenses can have an impact on many people and industries. The military could use them to develop hands-free navigation systems for transportation both on the ground and in the air. Pilots would benefit because the sensor on the side of the head is small, and could be worn comfortably with goggles, and other types of eye protection equipment. The device works in all lighting conditions, and in any position the wearer might be in. Another application of magnetic contact lens technology would the the aiming and guidance of weapons and ammunition systems.

Magnetic contact lenses could also be used to more accurately create computer generated, animated characters. By using the magnetic contact lenses to track a human’s natural eye movements, animators can use the data that is collected to make the animated characters’ eye movements more realistic, and believable. Many animated motion pictures and television series already use sensors on a human body to study how the body moves in order to duplicate that motion in the animated character, and wanting to make the characters even more life-like makes perfect sense.

Another very helpful and life-changing way this technology could be used is to use eye movements to navigate and power wheelchairs for those unable to use their hands or feet either because of amputation or paralysis. This device could change the way of life for a wheelchair bound individual, providing them with an opportunity at a freedom that would not be possible any other way.