Drawing on the same techniques that enable Hawaii's giant Keck telescopes to snap detailed images of remote galaxies, vision scientist David Williams hopes to give humans crystal-clear eyesight. In his lab at the University of Rochester in New York, Williams focuses a beam of light into the eye of a volunteer. A sensor invented by his former postdoc Junzhong Liang measures the distortion caused by slight defects on the cornea. That information is fed into a computer that controls a 3-inch deformable mirror, which changes shape to compensate for irregularities on the cornea and lens and brings images like the photo of a library tower in Rochester (below) into sharp focus for a viewer. Although the vision machine is too bulky to incorporate into a pair of glasses, Williams thinks it could lead to improved laser-corrective surgery or custom-crafted contact lenses. "My dream is that someday you'll be able to walk up to a vending machine, look into this instrument, and a laser will sculpt a contact lens into just the right shape for you," he says.
Photo by Heidi Hofer/University of Rochester