Head of the Optics department at IMT Atlantique and founder of Cylensee, Professor Jean-Louis de Bougrenet de la Tocnaye has been working on the development of connected contact lenses for nearly ten years. Equipped with flexible micro-batteries and optoelectronic components, for example, they could improve the vision of the visually impaired, as well as being integrated into "bio-embedded" augmented vision devices. There are many potential applications, in particular in the healthcare sector (surgical assistance, treatment of retinopathy), as a driving aid, or for augmented reality headsets designed for the general public... and of course also in the military field: these lenses could provide infantrymen with augmented vision assistance enabling them to consult/exchange visual information, hands-free.
"This really is the convergence of technologies", stresses the researcher. His work draws on a wealth of knowledge in a wide range of fields: materials and conjugated polymers, embedded electronics and signal processing, nanotechnologies, connected objects, AI, etc. Not forgetting the clinical aspects, in the fields of ophthalmology and opto-genetics, as well as neuroscience linked to cognitive perception.
The development of these innovative lenses is therefore based on a 'cross-disciplinary engineering' approach, combining health, neuroscience and engineering sciences. In this way, it is part of the wave of 'medtechs', which are now booming and relying more and more on innovation from external start-ups.
"We don't go so far as to involve the human sciences", he adds "But questions of physiological 'bio-compatibility', tolerance acceptability, respect for the patient and even ethics are all part of our concerns."
This research, which involves a team of around fifteen teacher-researchers and as many doctoral students, collaborates with other laboratories at the school. On a national level, we have also forged close links with the Institut de la vision, the leading ophthalmology centre in France and even in Europe - an organisation that brings together Inserm, CNRS, Institut Pasteur and Sorbonne-Université, as well as industrialists including Essilor, a specialist in optical lenses. Against this backdrop, the team set up the start-up "Cylensee" to promote its expertise internationally.
Last November, Professor Jean-Louis de Bougrenet de la Tocnaye was awarded the Grand Prix de l'Académie des Sciences for his work. Professor de la Tocnaye sees this as "recognition of the dynamism of our engineering schools, which need to demonstrate a broad cross-disciplinary knowledge base in order to meet the many challenges of modern society".
The Optics department is also working on other projects, such as an 'artificial nose' that uses AI and deep learning to detect gases and, more generally, measure air quality, which is in line with IMT Atlantique's environmental commitments.