Every last company is a visionary (unintended pun!) when it comes to innovating and the biggest innovation now lies in virtual reality and augmented reality.
What if you could actually wear a lens and see a whole lot of details about a person without doing a Google search?
Imagine this scenario! When you walk into a bar to find a potential partner, you will be able to scan a person and know their social profile, their hobbies as well as what they like or dislike. It should be easier now than ever to strike a conversation, right? Similarly, it should be easier to complete business deals as you can get lots of valuable information about a client as soon as you see them. The information will be projected onto the side in a convenient interface.
Who knows? In the near future, you may start seeing personalized advertisements over your AR vision and be able to browse through a store with price tags virtually displayed over every product!
Giving Your Eyes the Due Attention
The original contact lens was developed way back in the 1970s and companies have managed to come up with impressive, soft lenses that are barely visible or felt by the user. They make life easier for millions of people who require an external lens to correct the power. The technology didn’t develop further until Google Glass and augmented reality became popular. Scientists started looking into integrating AR into car windows, glasses and probably contact lenses when technology favors them.
The majority of lenses are made using silicone hydrogel, a soft non-abrasive material and in the next few years, a significant increase in its quality is expected. The change in the material will allow users to wear it 30% more time and the longer you wear it, the more additional features you might expect.
The Progress in Making Smart Contact Lenses So Far
While the actual idea of implementing a complete augmented reality setup in contact lenses is still far away, companies have been actively experimenting with making smart lenses. As part of their initiative, Google X, a team from Google created a lens that had a built-in blood glucose monitor embedded in contacts. The project was carried out by a group of people from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in association with Google.
Doctors and scientists work together to create an e-contact lens which is capable of sending signals to a computer if there are health issues in the wearer’s eye. In their research paper, the team further suggested that a small chip will allow wireless signals to be transmitted continuously and notify of any ocular diseases. The military started experimenting with night vision glasses which are actually integrated into lenses. They might have already succeeded in their attempt but as with all military technology, it might take time for them to bring it to the consumer market.
Embedding an LED Display in a Lens
Prof. Babak A. Parviz worked with his team to integrate LED displays and mini circuits. The idea is to provide a projected image of the information you like to see and it should automatically overlap with a user’s normal vision. The AR display can seamlessly record what you see, send additional information and also report regarding your health condition. In short, it was designed to make you smarter. Parviz used one pixel but it requires many to create an overlapping image over a person’s normal vision. A surprising entrant in the field is Apple who had a meeting with top contact lenses manufacturers to consider the possibility of integrating augmented reality but the idea hasn’t taken off yet.
Nano-technology, Sensors and Wi-Fi on Your Lens Surface
The silicone hydrogel material is extremely sensitive and light but improving technology is expected to allow manufacturers to implement such technologies on the lens’ surface. In future, your contact lens should have a glucose meter, LED display to project various information directly on your retinal area combined with rectifier and a stretchable antenna.
When all these components work together, they can provide the AR experience on a whole new level. The lens will be made using transparent nanomaterials, have longer durability and the mesh-like structure will ensure all components are stretchable to provide maximum comfort for the wearer for long hours.
The research team working on these projects have used rabbits as a test to find if the sensors work as intended and detect blood glucose levels using contact lens. Implementing them for humans may take more time as they have to ensure that there is no irritation. The sensors should also be able to detect the movement of the pupil in order to project where you want to see them. An interesting idea that is still in its nascent stages and might take some more time to come into the mainstream user arena.
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