Introduction: Squintasaurus: Cybernetic Dynamically Adjustable Vision Enhancement System

Picture of Squintasaurus: Cybernetic Dynamically Adjustable Vision Enhancement System

I can't see things very well at a distance. I used to wear classes, then contact lenses, then nothing. I hadn't worn any corrective lenses for years because glasses were annoying and my contact lenses were messing up my eyes. One day I was thinking about the reason for near-sightedness and I figured that if it's caused by an inability of the eye's lenses to flatten out, then maybe I could physically assist them in some way instead of just optically correcting for the problem like 'corrective lenses' do. Then after trying some things I realized that I could pull back back on the skin at the sides of my eyes and this seemed to do the trick. Since then I've been in several seminars in which I successfully used this trick to be able to read the screen or chalkboard that was too far away for me to otherwise make out clearly. So I decided to make a simple device to do this for me. What I made probably wouldn't be something that most people would want to wear in public, but a professionally made, miniaturized version of such a device might have more widespread appeal, and it was fun to make and test in any case.

Note: Squinting is thought to work by decreasing the amount of light entering the eye as well as by slightly flattening the eye's cornea. The cornea is a lens of the eye that is responsible for a majority of the eye's focusing power. If one squints one can notice a decrease in the field of vision indicating a decrease in eye's aperture. However, when pulling at the eyelid corners with your fingers you will notice an enhancement of distance vision greater than that achievable by squinting, and without any noticeable decrease in field of vision. So it seems that this system works more by flattening the cornea than it does by decreasing the eye's aperture. A final possibility for how this system works is related to the eye's length: In near sighted people light from distant objects converges slightly in front of the retina (the part of your eye that actually detects the incoming light and sends the information to your brain). Using this system the pulling back on the eyelids may be compressing the eye slightly, thereby allowing the convergence of light rays to occur further back in the eye: at the retina, allowing clearer vision of the distant objects.

Step 1: Get the Linear Actuator

Picture of Get the Linear Actuator
you'll need a pretty strong linear actuator to be able to pull your skin enough to have the desired effect. I remembered that CD players had nice worm gear motors in them to move the laser back and forth across the CD, so I looked through my junk pile and found an old CD walkman. I tore it apart using screwdrivers etc. and took out the linear actuator assembly, this will look different depending on the CD player but it's easy to identify if you know what you're looking for. I didn't take photos of this part so you'll have to look at the photos I got from wikipedia (,

= The first photo shows a portable CD player, you could also take apart a non-portable CD player but those are usually a little harder to take apart.
= The second photo show the inside of a CD player. The black region on the green board on the left is what you're after, it has all the necessary motors and gears attached.
= The third photo shows this same mechanism from the underside, showing the motors and gears. You do not need to disassemble this mechanism, you will use it as is. All you need to cut are the wires leading to the rectangular motor (as noted on the photo).

Looking at the third photo: We'll be interfacing with the rectangular motor which is connected to the worm gear which is connected to the laser lense. The laser lense gets moved linearly, up and down along the worm gear. A 'worm gear' is the best way to allow low torque motors (such as the small rectangular one in the photo) to be used in high torque applications (like this one), but some cheaper CD players won't use worm gears. These alternate gear configurations will also work ok for this application.

Step 2: Build the Circuit

Picture of Build the Circuit
To control the motor I made the circuit shown below. The M is the CD walkman's motor. Cut the wires going to it so you can connect it to your circuit. The circles in the middle of the circuit diagram are transistors. You could also use opto-isolated photodiode arrays or other types of switches. Everywhere you see a '+' means connect that wire to the + side of your power supply (in my case 3 AA batteries). Wherever you see a sideways christmas tree that means connect that wire to the - side of your power supply.

This simple circuit uses a tripole switch (a switch with three settings) to control the linear actuator we got from the CD player. This switch is composed of my thumb, index finger, and ring finger, each of which has wires attached to them. By touching one's thumb to 1) the index finger 2) ring finger or 3) nothing, one can respectively turn the linear actuators motor counterclockwise, clockwise, or not at all.
This happens because in the first switch setting (thumbs wire touched to index finger wire) I'm connecting power (+5V) to the bases of two transistors (follow the blue line). These transistors, when actuated allow power to flow through the motor from left (the + power side) to right (the - power side).
Meanwhile, in the second switch setting (thumbs wire touched to ring wire), I'm connecting power (+5V) to the bases of two other transistors (follow the green line). These transistors, when actuated allow power to flow through the motor from right (the + power side) to left (the - power side).
Finally in the third switch setting I'm not touching my thumb to either the index or ring finger wire, so the motor doesn't get any power at all and therefore doesn't move. Because of the way that worm gears work, de-powering the motor will leave the laser lense at its current position, even if there is a force applied to it (i.e. if it's still pulling at the skin surrounding the eye). Again, this makes worm gear ideal for this application.

In the second photo you can see this circuit in its assembled state. I put notes in the photo so you can see what's what.

Step 3: Mount the System

Picture of Mount the System

Here's some photos of the control circuitry attached to my hand. The power supply is taped to the back of my hand. The wire contacts are taped to the ends of my thumb, index, and ring finger. The transistor array is danging by my wrist.

Also there's a photo of the head mounted part, i.e. the linear actuator motor. I tied a thing string to the laser lense and taped the other end of the string to the skin at the corner of my eye. To keep the string from slipping out from the tape I wrapped it once around (i.e. the string passes twice under the tape, and once over it). I was amazed at how well the electrical tape stayed attached to my skin, not once did it come off during use.

Step 4: Video and Photos of Testing

Picture of Video and Photos of Testing
Here's photos and a video of the original tests of the whole system. I'm controlling the movement of the linear actuator by touching my thumb wire to either my ring or index finger (or neither). It worked pretty well and was able to pull the skin with enough force to cause the distance viewing effect I mentioned in the intro. Still, it took fiddling to get the mechanism positioned at the right height on my head to pull the skin at the right angle to cause the effect. Any future commercial version of this system would benefit from maybe three separate linear actuators, each positioned at a slightly different angle to allow one to customize the tensioning as required for their specific physiology. 


atterack833 (author)2012-02-26

ok dont mind me but i cant help but make a racist comment here , activate Chinese vision (or chink vision , it rolls better but its more racist sorry)

mitchiemasha (author)atterack8332015-04-21

Realising I use this method to correct my vision whilst stud in a take away. You know those orangey gold menus on the back wall with hundreds of different random dishes on, lil black letters all crammed together. It's just 1 big blur to me until I pull the skin at the side of my eyes. Imagine my dilemma, I'm stud there doing it, trying to get my focus, then the lil Chinese man walks out from the back.

trybak (author)2013-09-01

Given the popularity of facial skin piercing one might attach the string to an eyebrow piercing or even several piercings strategically placed to create fine tuning of focus. This might require a separate motor for each point of attachment along with a quick disconnect of each of the strings.
Also other applications might be therapeutic for paralysis of facial muscles. The previous comment about forcing a torture victim to smile made me consider non-evil applications since they might have more widespread appeal thus more funding opportunities.

mrwolfe (author)2012-02-22

Freaky instructable, love it! Won't work for me though becaue I am very myopic (not sure about "short sighted" - makes me sound a bit conservative!). Squinting stopped working for me years ago as well.

Just as an aside, the way squinting works is to reduce the effective aperature of your eye. As any photographer knows, when you stop down the aperature, you make the aperature small, which increases the depth of field. This means that objects are in focus over a larger range of distances. Conversely, opening the aperature up reduces the depth of field, which allows a photographer to take a picture of a persons face, for example, with everything in front and behind out of focus.

A camera obscura (pinhole camera) works on the same principle, but with a very small hole as the aperature.

DIY-Guy (author)mrwolfe2013-01-31

With an eye toward the "be nice" policy, I hope everyone will honor the humor in this and not assume an attack is taking place. After all, I'm not flagging somebody else for a violation. Please accept this in the friendly way it is intended-

MrWolfe said:
"I am very myopic (not sure about "short sighted" - makes me sound a bit conservative!)."

Funny you should add a political comment like that, but since you brought it up... every conservative I know is very far sighted, they think about the effects of choices today and the consequences upon the future.

As to the narrow view through a pinhole, I'll try very hard not to make a comment relating a narrow view to the other kind of politics.    ;)


mrwolfe (author)DIY-Guy2013-02-03

Errrm, actually I meant conservative as in "overly cautious" rather than conservative in the political sense. I guess my intent was more along the lines of being conservative as opposed to visionary.

DIY-Guy (author)mrwolfe2013-02-04

:) Heh! You did very well with that one. Perhaps you are a visionary conservative along with so many other people? I think people like Gallileo, Newton, and so forth were looking at facts they could see, thinking about the implications a lot, and then trying to do the best thing possible. But *anyone* who reaches beyond the normal view of the time runs the risk of being ostracised as a visionary.

leevonk (author)mrwolfe2012-02-23

you're right about squinting, but like I added in the "Note" in the project intro, when I pull at the skin at the corners of my eyes I notice an enhancement of distance vision without a noticeable decrease in my field of vision. Meanwhile when I squint I don't see nearly as much vision enhancement and I _do_ see a decrease in my field of vision (i.e. a decrease in the aperture), so it doesn't seem like this skin pulling method works the same way as squinting does, I think it is actually stretching out the eye's lens,... but I'm not sure...

skrubol (author)2012-03-14

So you're using NPN transistors for all 4? With that H-bridge design, you'll get a bit of a voltage drop across the high-side transistors.
Probably not an issue for driving a tiny motor like that though as long as you use oversized transistors.

love4pds (author)2012-03-06

how about the minimally invasive face lift product? Useing it where the tape is under the skin?

Fik (author)2012-03-01

I can't believe no one has made a Borg reference

mh76dk (author)2012-02-21

I realise that this is 99% done "just because" so I will just comment on the last 1%.

I am not sure I see how this is a better (in any other way than "much more fun to do") solution than glasses - and it may also have some skin/flesh-related sideeffects (strain from being pulled back often/for very long time, tape-rash(?))

I would also think the tape sticking part is very individual (as our skin is different, dryness, sweatyness, etc)

When that is said (and I could be wrong :), for what it is, it is quite an interresting project.

leevonk (author)mh76dk2012-02-22

you're right, I did do it mostly just for fun but an improved version of this system would have some theoretical advantages over contact lenses or glasses. Glasses are delicate and contact lenses change the shape of your eye over time (that's why people getting lasik curgery have to go without contacts for a couple months before the surgery). Contact lenses can also cause detrimental growth of blood vessels on the cornia (here's a list of their problems: Also, both glasses anc contact lenses are constantly in the 'on' state which may have further detrimental effects on vision. This system can be switched on and off as needed and would therefore probably have less effects on one's long term vision, and would also probably not cause the eye shape and blood vessel changes that contact lenses can.

mh76dk (author)leevonk2012-02-22

I just thought I would bring up a few things worth considering - just in case you had not.

The one thing regarding this vs. glasses is that glasses seem to me to be less intrusive and also very portable (taking them off also turns them off - so to speak).

Having said that. I do not need eye correction (or rather, I might need it, but I dont have/use it) so I am not so familiar with the issues they might have.

Good luck with the improved version!

leevonk (author)mh76dk2012-02-22

yeah, you're right, glasses are pretty easy to 'turn' on/off but not as easily or quickly as with this system. Also, glasses can only be turned on and off if you carry your glasses case with you everywhere, and unless its big and sturdy (i.e. annoying to carry) they still stand a chance of getting damaged in your pocket. Besides, with a cell phone, wallet, and keys who has room for a glasses case :) However, there's a big caveat, glasses can definitely enhance your vision to a much greater degree than this system can (i.e. this system will not augment vision enough for a severely nearsighted person to be fully functional)

mh76dk (author)leevonk2012-02-22

But will your system not require a carrying case too? it will likely also get annoying wearing it all the time. (I hope this does not come across as negatively as I make it sound - I really do like the idea/solution)

leevonk (author)mh76dk2012-02-22

No offense taken, in the state in which it's presented here, yes, it can get annoying to wear

w0ot! (author)leevonk2012-02-29

Instead of putting this on your eyes, I think it would make a bang-up steam punk torture device to force ones victim to smile.

Trapper777 (author)leevonk2012-02-22

Yes, and if you have to look at something close-up and then something far away (i.e. a child writing down what the teacher is writing on the board while in class) it would be pretty annoying if you have to take off your glasses every few seconds as to not harm your long-term vision.

mh76dk (author)Trapper7772012-02-22

That is a very good point.

atterack833 (author)2012-02-26

also how do you get the tape to hold? what kind of tape is it

leevonk (author)atterack8332012-02-27

it's electrical tape, I was surprised at how well it held on

w0ot! (author)leevonk2012-02-29

You could also use Breathe-Rite® strips.

beff50 (author)2012-02-28

seriously, your eyes are not something you should mess with. we wear corrective lenses to prevent eyestrain, we wear polarized sunglasses to prevent cataracts, and we don't wear eye skin stretchers as to not cause astigmatism and possible retina damage. more then likely your ophthalmologist will have an entire barnyard if he finds out about this device. it could make your eyesight worse in the long-run.

lperkins (author)2012-02-26

I would be hesitant to use this system for any prolonged period of time. My ophthalmologist is very chatty and likes to discuss his research. One of his projects is assessing the correlation between squinting and the development of astigmatism. Basically, if you don't flatten your cornea evenly, it will cause it to deform and no longer be a perfect dome, making it even harder for your eyes to focus properly. On top of that, pulling on your skin like that is likely to give you the oddest-looking set of wrinkles when you get older.

leevonk (author)lperkins2012-02-27

That's really interesting, hadn't thought of uneven flattening of the cornea. I know that contact lenses change eye shape too, I'm not sure in what way though

bpark1000 (author)leevonk2012-02-27

Hard contacts force the cornea to take their shape. That's how most cases of astigmatism are corrected by contacts. (Most of the refraction occurs at the cornea surface. Most astigmatism is due to the cornea not being spherical.) Soft lenses conform to the cornea, and cannot correct astigmatism unless they are weighted to prevent rotation.

Want another way to correct nearsightedness? Ride in the leading car of a roller coaster and look straight forward! The air blast flattens the cornea. It corrected my 3 diopters of nearsightedness on the fast parts of the ride.

leevonk (author)bpark10002012-02-27

interesting, soft contacts also apparently change the shape of the eye in a nonbeneficial way as a side effect of prolonged use too:

bpark1000 (author)2012-02-26

This device does correct nearsightedness, but I suspect it also introduces astigmatism when activated, as it is pulling outward, but not up/down. Have you tested your refraction when it's activated? You can do that with a handful of diopter lenses from ($0.75 each) a white wax candle, and a 5 mW green laser pointer. Set the pointer shooting into the side of the candle (stable on a table). The candle will glow green. View from 20 feet away while being still. You will see a graininess to the light. If you move slightly left/right, the grains will shift. If you are nearsighted, the grain motion will oppose your motion, if farsighted, the grain motion will follow.  With the device activated, look through diopter lenses (-0.25, -0.5, -.075, etc.) until you find the one that stops the grain motion.  That is your correction.  Repeat the test, but move up/down instead.  I'll bet you find you need a different lens to correct for the up/down test.  The difference between the 2 lenses is your astigmatism.

Another question: would prolonged pressure raise the eyeball pressure, and damage the retina?

leevonk (author)bpark10002012-02-27

yeah, it is probably causing some sort of fluctuations in internal pressure which could be an issue over time as you mentioned

greatpanda (author)2012-02-26

FWIW, William H Bates wrote a book on natural vision exercises nearly a hundred years ago, it's a free pdf online as the copyright has run out. It takes time and dedication once you're already near/far sighted, but Meir Schneider is one of the most famous of cases, went from blind (only seeing shadows across his vision in full sun) to being awarded his driver's license in CA with no restrictions.

nwlaurie (author)greatpanda2012-02-27

Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) used the Bates Metod and wrote a book about it called (IIRC) The Art of Seeing.

tinker234 (author)2012-02-25

i like the concept but for me i was wondering about how to make something that willlt ake normal vison and bring it to super natural levels

leevonk (author)tinker2342012-02-25

This system may indeed be able to allow people with 20/20 vision to see further, I haven't tested it with anyone with perfect vision but I will try it

tinker234 (author)leevonk2012-02-26

or maybe pepole with less than perfect vison to see with 20/20 or add magnfining glasses for diffrent lenses viewing using a sevro

lumi3005 (author)2012-02-26

Cool idea but I wonder how to improve the performance.
How does the idea sounds to hook that up to a microcontroller, combined with a distance sensor (and maybe a laser pointer to aim the target) for an automatically focusing?

bstott (author)2012-02-26

Pretty geeky cool. Now, will your grades get better and will you get a raise? Testing, testing, testing..... :-)

unlearny (author)2012-02-26

Nice idea!  You may not know, but Aldus Huxley (Brave New World) wrote a book on eye exercises to improve vision. He was almost blind from a life of writing and reading in the dark to flickering oil lamps.  You may want to look it over for future machines!

Pattymouth (author)2012-02-26

I love that you said, "glasses were annoying" and then created a big thing you wear on your head and something with batteries that you have to strap onto your hand. I don't know if you could market these for many of us women (unless you add some glitter?), but it's a fascinating tool. You people are smart!

turiddhu (author)2012-02-26

in an emergency if you lose or break your eyeglasses maybe you could do as i did: cut out of cardboard a pair of eyeglasses measured to fit your eyes,bend back the clasps that support the eyeglasses on the ears,then proceed with a needle to make a pinhole from the inside out, right on the spot where the pupils are ,you can make them bigger or smaller depending on whats better for you just by using a smaller or bigger needle. you may have to cut out a few until you make the right one but i found out that it works for me as i was able to watch tv with them,also for your protection use the needles definitely away from the eyes.

gearhead1214 (author)2012-02-26

that looks painful

sitearm (author)2012-02-26

@Leevonk; You are The Visionator! : ) Site

XenonJohn (author)2012-02-25

One more suggestion perhaps:
If you want a product that sticks to skin tightly over a small contact area consider using half a "breathe-right" strip at side of each eye.

These have a sprung ? metallic centre section you could attach your mechanism to and are designed to hold your nostrils open to reduce snoring. I have seen some athletes use them too. To work they have to be very sticky and not come unstuck due to the spring effect, so might be good for your application. Also the adhesive is already licensed for use on skin.


XenonJohn (author)2012-02-25

I wonder if you had thought about trying the principle of air muscles These are a length of rubber tube encased in such a way that when you add compressed air, they shorten.
There are probably none small enough for what you want but the principle might be quite neat as minimal moving parts near your eyes, control unit of some sort in your shirt pocket.

Great idea.

Samimy (author)2012-02-22

nice very nice, good invention.
now all you need is to re-pack it to a nice and smaller kit.

i like how your touch circuit is full of transistors only, not any other electronic component.

does not suck the battery soon? all those transistors?

anyway nice work.

valhallas_end (author)2012-02-21

Interesting...I've used this trick for a while (since I forget my glasses constantly, and can't wear contacts), but I usually go for the nonchalant "two fingers pressed to my temple so it looks like I just have a headache" look. But this - man, encase it in a shell, and you now have a torture device image going...

Out of curiosity, how long have you worn this in the "on" position (i.e. how long can you deal with it pulling your skin)? I've found this gets uncomfortable quickly using one's fingers, but tape? Any ideas on what an updated (future commercial) system would use?

leevonk (author)valhallas_end2012-02-22

I wore it around for only a day, but yeah, it looks pretty weird so that kind of limits where it can be worn in its current state. A future version of this concept could use a much smaller motor glued closer to the eye, or a little further in the future one could graft a piece of test-tube-grown-muscle under the skin at the corner of the eye. The grafted muscle would have to be innervated by some split off branch of an existing facial nerve and the person would have to learn to control it properly but that would be pretty cool :)

madmanmoe64 (author)leevonk2012-02-22

Since I found out about them I've been looking for a use for nano muscles

Basically a tiny device that contracts when voltage is applied.

Seems like the perfect thing if this were ever to be implemented.

The small circuit board and batteries could be located in a box hooked behind the ear (similar to hearing aid) and the tiny flexible strip sits neatly against the skin.

leevonk (author)madmanmoe642012-02-22

I've worked with shape memory alloys (SMAs) in the past and they are a real pain to work with because it is hard to solder to them to give them power, but since the one you cited seems to come prepackaged with a control interface it might be more fun to work with. Another thing about SMAs is make sure you look into the % of their length that they are capable of contracting, it's usually not much, but you can buy SMA helixes which can contract a lot further than a straight length of it.

mh76dk (author)2012-02-22

Btw, this made it to - don't forget us regular folks when you get rich and famous :-)

About This Instructable




More by leevonk:WolfPack: Large-Dog CarrierVortex-Drive Micro ROV (ROVVor)Squintasaurus: cybernetic dynamically adjustable vision enhancement system
Add instructable to: