Getting information as fast as possible and on the spot is the trend. So what could be more direct than having information fired directly into the eye?
A new generation of contact lenses built with very small circuits and LEDs promises bionic eyesight. Today — together with his students — Babak A. Parviz, bionanotechnology expert at University of Washington, is already producing devices that have a lens with one wirelessly Radio Frequency powered LED. To turn such a lens into a functional browser, control circuits, communication circuits and miniature antennas will have to be integrated. These lenses will eventually include hundreds of semitransparent LEDs, which will form images in front of the eye: words, charts, imagery enabling the wearers to navigate their surroundings whithout distraction or disorientation. The optoelectronics in the lens may be controlled by a seperate device that relays information to the lens’s control circuit. Another use could be the monitoring of the wearer’s health and biomarkers f.e. cholesterol, sodium, kalium or glucose.
A few barriers have yet to be taken in order to produce such a device. Materials are not compatible with one another; all components have to be assembled onto about 1.5 square centimeters of flexible, transparent polymer; and of course the lens needs to be completely safe for the eye. Parviz mentions that the LED for example is made of aluminum gallium arsenide, a toxic material that should first have to be encapsulated in a biocompatible polymer.
Last but not least: seeing the LED-light switching on and off is one thing, but seeing something comprehensible in dense resolution to the eye is something else.“The true promise of this research is not just the actual system we end up making, whether it’s a display, a biosensor, or both. We already see a future in which the humble contact lens becomes a real platform, like the iPhone is today, with lots of developers contributing their ideas and inventions.”
Contact lenses have always been about improving natural sight, so whatever information they may bring to our eyes in the coming future… may the view be clear.