High-Tech Contact Lenses Give You 'Terminator' Vision
Ever wonder what it’d be like to see a heads-up display appear before your eyes — literally? The initial stages of such technology have successfully been tested on rabbits, according to a recently published study.
Researchers at the University of Washington and Aalto University of Finland have developed a contact lens that could potentially contain microscopic displays. For now, contact lenses with only a single pixel have been developed and tested, so things are still in the early development phase. But one day, all sorts of visual information could be flashed in front of you, a la "Terminator." Reading emails could become as simple as putting in your contacts.
“One of the limiting factors in further shrinking the size of electronic devices, say a laptop, is the display size,” Babak Parviz, associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington and leader of the study, told INO.
“Below a certain size, displays are not really usable for the human eye. We wanted to see if we can de-couple the display from the rest of the device, allowing everything to get much smaller.”
A remote radio-frequency transmitter powers the display. Built into the lens are an antenna, a small radio and a light source — in this case, the single pixel. Once higher-resolution displays are developed, this technology could be used for Web browsing and video games, to provide visual warnings for the hearing impaired, or in various forms of training, the researchers say.
“We need to increase the number of pixels, expand the color gamut, and improve the focusing mechanism,” Parviz told INO, explaining the challenges his teams still face. “We also need to increase the range of the wireless power transmission and improve the material properties of the contact lens.”
The contact lens systems, which Parviz and his teams have been working on since 2004, reportedly had no adverse effects on the test rabbits.
Sensimed, a Swiss medical equipment company, has been using similar technology with its Triggerfish contacts, which have already entered the market. These contact lenses, which also contain microscopic antennae, are designed to track changes in pressure within the eye. This information warns the wearer of possible glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness.