Body Hacks: Night Vision, Hold the Goggles

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.19.11 PMFor those seeking good night vision, carrots and glasses with yellow lenses just got bumped out of the running by a technology that takes night goggles straight to your eyeballs. A group of biohackers in Tehachapi, CA, Science for the Masses, used a chlorophyll analog found in some deep-sea fish call Chlorin e6/Ce6 to enhance healthy vision to night vision that allows sight for more than 50 meters in the dark.

The material had been used as a cancer treatment and a treatment for night blindness. According to a paper “A Review on Night Enahncement Eyedrops Using Chlorin e6” by Gabriel Licina and Jeffrey Tibbetts:

“In 2012 a patent was filed​ based in some part on the work of Washington et al​. The patent claims that a mixture can be made which, when applied to the eye, will absorb to the retina and act to increase vision in low light. The mixture put forth in the patent is a simple combination of Ce6 and insulin in saline. It is mentioned in the same, that dimethlysulfoxide (DMSO) can be used in place of the insulin. We propose a combination of the two could lead to the most noted effects. For testing purposes, the mixture from the patent (Ce6, Saline, Insulin) was used with the addition of DMSO for increased permeability.”

In an article at Science.Mic, part of the blog author Max Plenke interviewed the lab’s medical officer Jeffrey Tibbetts.

“Going off that research, we thought this would be something to move ahead with,” the lab’s medical officer, Jeffrey Tibbetts, told Mic. “There are a fair amount of papers talking about having it injected in models like rats, and it’s been used intravenously since the ’60s as a treatment for different cancers. After doing the research, you have to take the next step.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.18.59 PM The experiment involved the application of drops and observations of its effects. After two hours the test subject and four control subjects went into the dark to identify individuals 25 to 50 meters away.

“The Ce6 subject consistently recognized symbols that did not seem to be visible to the controls. The Ce6 subject identified the distant figures 100% of the time, with the controls showing a 33% identification rate.”

After the testing, the subject wore black sunglasses until sleep and has reported no noticeable effects afterward.

Science for the Masses is a research group created “to aid in the development of ‘citizen science’ so this might not be something coming to market any time soon, but it opens some interesting doors into the discussion of what the human body can to with a little help from science.


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Turning Brown Eyes Blue

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Tired of being a Brown-Eyed Girl (or boy)? A new technology out of Laguna Beach, CA, is offering the opportunity to permanently change eye color from brown to blue using a non-invasive, patented procedure. Invented by Gregg Homer, JSD (PhD), for Stroma Medical Corporation, the procedure is conducted in doctor’s offices and takes about 20 seconds to carry out on patients of all races and nationalities.

According to Stroma Medical:

“We all have blue eyes.  In the case of brown eyes, however, a thin layer of brown pigment covers the front surface of the iris (the colored part of the eye).  The Stroma laser disrupts this layer of pigment, causing the body to initiate a natural and gradual tissue-removal process.  Once the tissue is removed, the patient’s natural blue eye is revealed.”

Notes Susie Poppick in a article, “Soon You’ll Be Able to Turn Your Brown Eyes Blue for $5,000″:

“Given that light eyes are increasingly rare, with less than a fifth of Americans boasting blue peepers, it’s easy to see how there might be demand for this procedure. A preference for blue eyes in Western societies has been documented in many unscientific ways, though controlled studies suggest that the blue-eyes-are-more-attractive stereotype is more a product of culture than unconscious preference.”

Stroma Medical reports that it has conducted 37 successful treatments on patients in Mexico and Costa Rica and the cost to U.S. consumers should be about $5,000, pending approval for entry into the market.

According to article, “Procedure changes eye color from brown to blue,” the procedure is fairly quick, but the full effect takes about two weeks to fully transition.

“The procedure, which applies a low-energy laser to the entire surface of the iris, takes about 30 seconds per eye. “This far in our studies, patients have reported no pain or discomfort during or after the procedure,” says Homer, adding that it takes about two weeks for the color to fully change. “For about the first week following the procedure, the iris might darken slightly. Over the following week, it will lighten gradually.”

The Stroma procedure should have no effect on patient vision, the company’s representative notes. “The Stroma laser treats only the iris.  It does not enter the pupil or treat any portion of the inside of the eye, which is where the nerves affecting vision are located.”

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But there are some concerns about the safety of procedure, notes Peter Shadbolt in a report for CNN, “Laser procedure can turn brown eyes blue.”  In an interview with Saj Khan, an ophthalmologist at the London Eye Hospital said there is a risk of long-term side effects that brings concerns to the forefront.

‘The main concern with any procedure that involves releasing pigment inside the eye is that the pigment can clog up the normal drainage channels which can in turn cause the pressure inside the eye to go up,” he said. “If that happens significantly enough, for long enough, it’s how patients develop glaucoma.”

He adds, “Theory has some sense to it, but without seeing long-term outcomes and without seeing patients that have been treated in this way I wouldn’t commit myself to it.”

And there’s the simple fact that changing your eye color won’t change your life, per se, notes the inventor, Dr. Homer.

“All your problems don’t go away because you’ve changed your eye color but I do believe that people like to express themselves a certain way and it’s nice when they have the freedom to do that.”

The procedure is currently in clinical trials and not commercially available anywhere in the world.  The release date is not yet known, but those who want to follow the technology’s expansion can register at for periodic updates, including clinical trial dates and territories, projected commercial release dates and territories.




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A Wink For Sight

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Caption: The telescopic contact lens magnifies 2.8 times. Image credit: EPFL

Those with low vision from conditions such at AMD (age-related macular degeneration) may get a new lease on vision thanks to a telescopic contact lens. Developed by researchers exploring optics at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, the lens functions with a blink that zooms —and magnifies 2.8 times—in the telescope embedded in the contact lens worn in one eye.

The lens incorporated a thin reflective telescope inside a lens notes

“Small mirrors within bounce light around, expanding the perceived size of objects and magnifying the view, so it’s like looking through low magnification binoculars.”

The prototype was unveiled by Eric Tremblay, an optics specialist at EPFL, at the recent AAAS Annual Meeting. He developed the lens with Joe Ford and the University of California-San Diego, and a team of scientists.

According to Medical News Today, the lenses were presented with smart glasses that provide a control device to steer the zoom feature with eye winks—while disregarding blinks.

Notes Tremblay, the development is a start, but not the ultimate solution.

“It’s very important and hard to strike a balance between function and the social costs of wearing any kind of bulky visual device. There is a strong need for something more integrated, and a contact lens is an attractive direction. At this point this is still research, but we are hopeful it will eventually become a real option for people with AMD.”

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 10.05.05 PMOne factor of concern is the lens’ size. It is 1.55 millimeters thick—a standard contact lens is .35 mm. To deal with getting oxygen to the eye while wearing a substantial contact, the EPFL representatives note:

“Since the eye needs a steady supply of oxygen, the scientific team has spent the last couple of years making the lenses more breathable—a critical requirement. To achieve oxygen permeability, they are incorporating tiny air channels roughly 0.1mm wide within the lens to allow oxygen to flow around and underneath the complex and normally impermeable optical structures to get to the cornea.”

While the lens may still be a considerable adaptation for the eye, for the millions of people who might regain independence and vision, the adjustment period might just be worth the effort.


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You’ll Poke His Eye Out: Bad Sportsmanship in Basketball

College basketball is rolling towards March madness, but a new craze of eye poking is sweeping Iowa’s Hawkeye basketball team—specifically center Adam Woodbury. In two games this season, Woodbury hasn’t kept his hands to himself, poking a Maryland freshman and two players for Wisconsin’s Badgers in their eyes. Notes Amelia Rayno from the StarTribune.

“Woodbury apologized to Trimble after the Maryland game, just as he had with the Wisconsin players and again called the poking strictly an accident, which perhaps raises as much concerns about his method of playing defense as it does about an incident that has heaped unwanted attention on Iowa city.”

The 7’ 1” Woodbury’s actions have some calling for discipline by the Big Ten team in addition to the Flagrant 1 foul he faced after the Maryland incident. ESPN broadcaster and color commentator Dan Dakish, called the player’s actions intentional, notes Chad Leistikow in the Des Moines Register.

“Dakish called center Adam Woodbury ‘gutless’ during the broadcast…Dakich thought Woodbury used his fingers to intentionally gouge the eyes of Badger players Frank Kaminsky and Nigel Hayes and called for the 7-foot-1 center to be suspended.”

Eye poking is an unfortunate, but longstanding, issue in basketball, even at the professional level. Players such as Amare Stoudemire and Jon Scheyer suffered detached retinas and other, less serious injuries are commonplace. And it’s not just at the pro and college level, experts note. According to Prevent Blindness America, 2.5 eye injuries occur each year in the U.S., without 10 percent of them sports/recreation injuries and most of those happening to a mix of people underage 25 and kids under age 15—basketball results in the most eye injuries for players ages 15-24.

While some sports have adopted face-injury-preventing protective devices, basketball goggles are still largely limited to those who have previous injuries or visual correction and the eyewear must be approved on a game-by-game basis, notes EyeSmart, the public information arm of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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Clear Lenses to Sunglasses at Your Command


Image by American Chemical Society

Tired of waiting for you photochromic lenses to change from sun lens to clear, or you have had quite enough of lenses that stay clear while you’re in a car on a sunny day because of the windshield’s UV block? Thanks to new technology lenses that change may be jumping from passive to active.

According to the American Chemical Society’s journal, ACS Applied Material & Interfaces, a new lens development resulted in lenses that are wearer controlled. They are:

“A new kind of lens that can switch within seconds from clear to darkly shaded and back again in response to a small electrical charge that a wearer could control.”

The development is the result of a study, which was led by Anna Osterholm in the John Reynolds group at the Georgia Institute of Technology, noting that, “the majority of available versions don’t block out the harshest light, such as bright light reflected off snow.”

According to Andy Szal at Chem.Info,

“When activated by the user, the charge alternates the electromagnetic lens between clear and dark shades—which could be tailored to match all hues available in commercial sunglasses—within seconds.”

The electrochemical polymers (ECPs) are functional and attractive, the study “Four Shades of Brown: Tuning of Electrochromic Polymer Blends Toward High-Contrast Eyewear” by Osterholm an her team and sponsored by BASF, reports.

“We demonstrate the attractiveness of these ECP blends as active materials in electrochromic eyewear by assembling user-controlled, high-contrast, fast-switching, and fully solution-processable electrochromic lenses with colorless transmissive states and colored states that correspond to commercially available sunglasses.”

The study also notes that the lenses have the potential to be easily produced by taking the current manufacturing process of inkjet printing and blade-coating to a larger scale.

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Be My Eyes App Shares Sight

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 10.15.34 AMTechnology can help with many superficial factors, from cute selfies on Snapchat to random potential dates on Tinder, but a new app is actually building a connection between users to do some real good. Be My Eyes connects sighted individuals with the blind to provide help via live video chat.

The app is a Danish startup opened in 2013 and went through a pilot program in Denmark before rolling out worldwide in 2015. It is available in 10 languages, including English, Dutch, and Italian.

According to Herbert Lui at the Lifehacker blog:

“Visually impaired users can more easily differentiate between labels, safely move through unfamiliar areas as you guide them through the walk, and have pictures described to them (amongst many other benefits).”

The app can also be of use to those having temporary sight impediments, Lui adds: “It could also be useful if people break their glasses and don’t have a spare on them.”

The app works very simply, Be My Sight explains:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 10.16.00 AM“As soon as the first sighted user accepts the request for help, a live audio-video connection will be set up between the two and t he sighted user can tell the blind person what she sees when the blind user points his phone at something using the rear-facing camera.”

Volunteers don’t have set times they must be on hand, notes Tyler Lee at ubergizmo:

“The app relies on volunteers and if you are too busy, the help request will then move on to the next user, and the next, until someone who is available picks up on the request. It is a pretty awesome and clever app and best of all, it is free.”

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The app has already helped blind users, reports Lucie Rychia in The Copenhagen Post, citing an interview with one of the participants in the pilot program.

“‘When I heard about the idea, I thought there wouldn’t be many volunteers wiling to help me,’ Ole Brun Jensen, a blind person who took part in the pilot, told MetroExpress. ‘But it has been a great success and people have been super good at assisting me.’”

The app is available at the iTunes App Store for iOS now and is under development for Android.


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Big Eyes: Looking at Art and Marriage

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 11.44.03 PMTim Burton’s latest work, Big Eyes, is a dramatic comedy that spins a tale based on the lives and art of Margaret and Walter Keane (played by Amy Adams and Christopher Waltz). The big-eyed, winsome portraits had a heyday in the 1960s as appeared on canvas, in prints, post cards, and other formats snapped up by a wide audience described by New York Times art critic John Canaday, played by Terence Stamp, as “an infinity of kitsch.”

Notes Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson:

“Big Eyes paints a deceptively simple picture that masks some genuine profundities. The story concerns the strange tale of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams) who (and this is basically first-act spoiler territory) painted a series of best-selling paintings but only after her husband (Christoph Waltz) insisted that he take credit for the work. That’s basically the story in a nutshell, but it’s a surprisingly compelling one that wrings its seemingly low-stakes drama for maximum emotional impact.”

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 11.51.50 PMWhile Walter claimed credit for the works and wasn’t revealed until a truth is stranger than fiction divorce trial, Big Eyes is Margaret’s story, delving into how she was freed and imprisoned by her artistry. Notes Geoffrey Macnab in the Independent:

“Keane’s paintings do indeed have a quality that intrigues viewers. Margaret can’t explain them beyond saying that they express a part of her being. (That’s why her husband’s decision to steal the credit seems so insensitive.) Walter comes up with a far-fetched story about the paintings representing the plight of post-war orphans in Germany. That seems to satisfy the public but, like, the faces of Easter Island statues, these paintings are inscrutable. We have no real sense of why Margaret paints them.”


In real life, since her divorce from Walter, Margaret has reclaimed her very-specific style and the Keen Look represents and markets her work.

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Come by With Me by Margaret Keane, from the Keen Look Online Gallery



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Holiday Makeup: The Festive Eye

The holidays bring with them, hopefully, a pile of invites for parties, dinners, and cocktails with friends and family. You have the outfits picked and the presents wrapped, but what to do with those pretty peepers? We searched Pinterest for some of the prettiest holiday options to keep your eyes merry and bright!

SPARKLE KITTY! shared this cat + sparkle = cool option that brings shimmer and drama to the party.

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DARK & LOVELY. Midnight gets a wakeup call with this dark glitter lid from yumemisakai.

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MEGA METAL. Bring on the gilt…the holidays make a festive metallic eye a bright idea by StyleCraze.

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 SAY I DO. Looking for something with a bit more subtlety for that holiday wedding? A more-muted eye look from makeupgeek still gets some drama to keep the pictures gorgeous.

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TO HECK WITH SUBTLETY! Tue Bengtsson says it’s the holidays and time for fun, sparkles, and basically a non-stop party for your face.

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In the Details: Disney’s New Vision

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Disney has come a long way from adorable mice and ducks, moving into the 21st century with a whole new take on how eyes are illustrated. Striving to find the secret to bringing the windows to the soul to life on the big screen, a team from Disney Research Zurich recently released a paper, “High-Quality Capture of the Eyes.”

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The results might be a real eye-opener for those who don’t realize all of the movement that goes on both in the visible portion of the eye and below its surface, providing a constantly shifting view into the thoughts and feelings of each individual.

Notes Robbie Gonzalez from the blog io9:

“Eyes are notoriously difficult to render convincingly. Not only are they incredibly detailed, they’re detailed in unique ways, varying dramatically from person to person. What’s more, most of us, whether we realize it or not, are informal experts on the appearance of real, human eyes. Just think of how much time you spend looking at other people’s eyeballs.”

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The report covers how the team examined the human eye’s components and developed a process to show shape and texture of an ocular surface. Part of the challenge of creating a realistic illustration of computer-generated characters’ eyes, the researchers note, is that every set of eyes is individual and different. The team has created a motion capture procedure that takes the actual shape and various parts of the eyeball into consideration. They note:

“In this paper we demonstrate that there is a lot of individuality to every eye, a fact that common practices for 3D eye generation do not consider. To faithfully reproduce all the intricacies of the human eye we propose a novel capture system that is capable of accurately reconstructing all the visible parts of the eye: the white sclera, the transparent cornea and the non-rigidly deforming colored iris. These components exhibit very different appearance properties and thus we propose a hybrid reconstruction method that addresses them individually, resulting in a complete model of both spatio-temporal shape and texture at an unprecedented level of detail, enabling the creation of more believable digital humans. Finally, we believe that the findings of this paper will alter our community’s current assumptions regarding human eyes, and our work has the potential to significantly impact the way that eyes will be modeled in the future.”

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Taking pictures of actor model’s eyes, the team uses a multi-view reconstruction method to take into consideration the random and individual specifics to each eye, including the natural changes that occur in the iris as the pupil moves, dilates, and contracts.

“We present the first method for reconstructing detailed iris deformation during pupil dilation, and demonstrate two applications of how data-driven iris animations combined with our high-quality eye reconstructions can be used to add realism to digital doubles in visual effects.”


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On Tour: Women of Vision

Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 11.21.23 AMA photography tour created by National Geographic, “Women of Vision” shares a look at the world through the lenses of gifted photojournalists around the world, who have provided a woman’s point of view considering a wide spectrum of thought- provoking and interest-piquing imagery for the magazine over the years.

The collection illustrates the magazine’s direction and the creative powerhouses behind the editorial pages, says Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions.

“For the last decade, some of our most powerful stories have been produced by a new generation of photojournalists who are women. They all share the same passion and commitment to storytelling that has come to define National Geographic.”

Curated by National Geographic senior photo editor Elizabeth Krist and sponsored by PNC and The PNC Foundation, the tour is on display through December 30 at the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomflield Hills, Michigan, and then moves to the Palm Beach Photographic Center in Florida from Jan. 21 through March 22.

Notes Michael Hodges from The Detroit News:

“Like all the best photography from the iconic magazine, the images at Cranbrook — blown up to heroic size — practically define photographic clarity and beauty, with dozens of pictures that will leave visitors shaking their heads, wondering how in the world the photographer got that shot.”

Including more than 100 artworks, such as multimedia creations and images, the show spotlights the work of 11 photojournalists making their way around the globe, from the New Jersey Shore to Iraq exploring 21st century humanity.

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Nepal 2000 by Maggie Steber

The photographers include Maggie Steber, Kitra Chana, Beverly Joubert, Jodi Cobb, Amy Toensing, Carolyn Drake, Stephanie Sinclair, Diane Cook, Lynn Johnson,

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Return To Zambia, 2005, by Lynn Johnson

Erika Larsen, and Linsey Addario.

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Bagdad After the Storm by Lynsey Addario

The work of Women of Vision is also available in book for with a forward by journalist Ann Curry and an introduction by National Geographic’s editor-in-chief Chris John.



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