Bionic lenses send text straight to your eye

Scientists have taken another step towards creating the bionic man of sci-fi lore with a wearable display mounted in a contact lens.

A team from the University of Washington and Aalto University in Finland managed to squeeze all the necessary equipment into a wearable lens that could display information right before your eyes.

This consists of an antenna which draws on power sent by an external source, as well as an integrated circuit which is able to store energy for use in a transparent sapphire chip which holds a blue LED.

Granted, the researchers are only able to produce a display of one pixel at the moment, and testing so far has only been on rabbits, but the possibilities are there.

The next step for the team is to get actual text onto the contact lens. When it’s there, the universities are considering applications like reading text messages and emails in the near future. 

A Doom-esque HUD would certainly be useful, with the researchers pointing to visual levels of glucose levels as an example. Equally we can imagine having your bank balance flickering up as you approach a pub could be handy, as well as a large hovering arrow ushering you home after six pints would be worth a shot.

It may be some time before futuristic developments like subtitles appearing in your field of vision or email alerts flashing up in your lenses are actually available from Specsavers, however.

The ‘proof of concept’ design may not have done any damage to the test bunny, but there are still plenty of hurdles in getting out of the early prototype stage.

The researchers did manage to solve the problem of how to allow information to appear unblurred, considering that a human eye has a minimum focal point of seven centimetres. This involved developing substantially thinner and flatter lenses than are typically available, allowing the image to be focused on the retina.

Improvements will need to be made to the antenna power system if the lenses are to be made usable. For example, while it was possible to power a display from one metre, this was reduced to just two centimetres when placed on the rabbit’s eye.

Still, the researchers are quite clearly excited, deciding to plump with the slightly unnerving “Terminator-style info-vision takes step towards reality” as the press release’s headline.