Technology seems to be making advances in the blink of an eye, but who would have thought that the blink of an eye could someday power the latest technology? Apparently, researchers at the University of Washington did. They are currently creating prototypes of “augmented reality contact lenses.” In the next decade or so, these lenses could take the seemingly endless stream of data out there and display it magically right before our eyes, without need for a cell phone, tablet or PC.
Similar to Arnold Schwartzenegger’s character in the series of Terminator movies, the data we need would be displayed onto our visual field in a transparent way, without obstructing our view of the world around us. There are a number of interesting applications for this technology, spanning everything from the practical to our endless desire to be entertained.
When scientists originally decided to pursue an augmented reality product, they considered a device that would be implanted into the brain, but ultimately decided that contact lenses would be a much more sensible application. Contacts are already used daily by millions of people, are considered safe, are disposable, can easily be mass-produced, and do not require brain surgery to insert or remove. What’s more, these tiny little pieces of silicone remain in contact with our bodily fluids for extended periods of time, and can easily be used to measure vital biomarkers, such as the glucose levels of diabetic patients.
Couple this with the ability to send and transmit information through a teeny-tiny integrated antennae, a set of augmented reality contact lenses could be used as a tool to proactively monitor your health. This would work similar to IT companies that remotely monitor the computer networks of their clients, enabling them to fix a problem before the entire system crashes. Your doctor might give you a call and ask you to come in for a check-up based on your current cholesterol or potassium levels, thereby preventing a heart attack.
Likely the most popular reason that consumers of the future would rush out and buy a set of augmented vision contact lenses would be so that they could stop carrying around their (by then) long-outdated iPad. Forget touch screens – you want to know where the nearest pizza place is? Pay your bills online? Simply look around for your virtual cursor – it’s right in front of your eyes! How about the ability to look at someone and immediately see their profile picture on Facebook – wow, he looks a lot older! – or see their latest status update.
This may seem implausible right now, but all the basic technologies that are required to build augmented vision contact lenses currently exist, and the prototypes are currently undergoing testing.
The researchers are experiencing some challenges, such as how to power the lenses. The two best options being evaluated right now are solar power and the use of ambient vibrations. What are ambient vibrations, you ask? These would be your eye movements, or the action of blinking, which would be converted into a type of electricity to power the lenses. These scientists think of everything. Apparently all we need to do is decide if we’d like our set in blue, green, or brown – or perhaps a mix.