Augmented Reality Contact Lenses Could Display Emails

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Researchers are creating contact lenses capable of streaming data directly to the eye

Researchers at the University of Washington have successfully tested contact lenses which project images in front of the eye.

The contact lenses could potentially allow users to read text, emails and use augmented reality applications.

First Contact

The researchers documented their findings in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering and said that safety tests on live, anesthetised rabbits had been successful, with the animals suffering no obvious side effects.

The current prototype contains just a single pixel, but the researchers hope that more can be embedded into future lenses.

“Our long-term goal is to create a display that can be comfortably worn in the form of a contact lens, which will include a pixel array, focusing optics, an antenna, and circuitry for power harvesting, radio communication and pixel control,” said the researchers.

“In the future, contact lens systems may receive data from external platforms (e.g. mobile phones) and provide real-time notifications of important events”, they continued, “With more colours and increased resolution, contact lenses may display text, be used with gaming devices, or offer cues from navigation systems.”

Fundamental Changes

The researchers acknowledged that getting the human eye to focus on an image generated on its surface was a major challenge, but they were able to adapt the lenses so that images could be viewed closer.

Other problems included difficulties finding a standalone power source and meeting regulations for radiofrequency radiation. The lenses are expected to absorb power wirelessly from nearby power sources.

“Although high resolution, full-colour, stand-alone contact lens displays might be many years away, the technological demonstrations to date depict a clear path containing a number of useful intermediate devices that can be feasibly produced in the near to medium terms,” said the researchers, “If such displays were successfully deployed, they would fundamentally change the nature of interaction between humans and visual information.”

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