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Telescopic lens for Mothers day

by Jane Waite, Queen Mary University of London

A mock up of macular degeneration showing a blackened centre area

Written on Mothers Day... My lovely old mum had macular degeneration, a horrible condition that robs millions of people worldwide of their sight. If only she could have lived another 80 years, maybe she could have worn a pair of telescopic contact lenses to help her see. She would have laughed her old Yorkshire socks off and said 'Bye heck that's amazing!'

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of blindness in the world, it's like having a blurry black hole follow you around, that sits right in the middle of whatever you want to look at. Faces are hard to recognise, reading and driving becomes impossible, colours and detail disappear.

A team in Switzerland have developed a prototype telescopic contact lens with special computerised electronic glasses to help people with sight problems, just like my old mum.

The contact lenses have miniscule concentric circles of tiny light bouncing mirrors cleverly set inside them.The electronic glasses redirect light onto the right part of the contact lenses so that they can do their telescopic magic. Objects are magnified to nearly three times their original size. To switch the magnification on and off, you have to learn to wink. The sensors in the electronic glasses you wear with the contact lenses ignore your normal blinking, but they detect a wink so you can control them.

Macular degeneration affects hundreds of thousands of people in Britain, it causes half of all blindness in the western world. As we live longer so we expect more people to suffer from this horrible age related condition, but maybe these computer controlled spectacles and magnifying lenses give us a glimpse of hope.

Try a simple experiment to find out what macular degeneration is like.