Augmented reality contact lenses planned

A team of scientists at the University of Washington has developed and produced multiple prototypes of a contact lens that has an LED mounted on it.

The unit is powered wirelessly by RF electrical signals, and represents the start of research that could eventually lead to screens mounted on contact lenses inside your eyes. Those screens would be transparent, meaning that you could overlay information on the real world, like in Augmented Reality iPhone applications.

The team points out that the lenses don't have to reach massively high resolutions to be useful. "Even a lens with a single pixel could aid people with impaired hearing or be incorporated as an indicator into computer games. With more colors and resolution, the repertoire could be expanded to include displaying text, translating speech into captions in real time, or offering visual cues from a navigation system".

There are hurdles in the process. Firstly, it's tricky to mesh together the components and integrate it inside a polymer lens. Secondly, a circular contact lens isn't much space for a sophisticated electronic circuit. Oh, and there's the small issue that the components of LEDs - aluminium gallium arsenide, for example, in the case of red ones - are toxic to the human eye.

Still, it's a promising avenue of bionic research. Perhaps in years to come, we won't need phones any more - it'll all be integrated into our bodies. We'll keep you posted of developments in the field.


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