Researchers to demonstrate augmented-reality contact lenses

A team at the University of Washington is developing a prototype contact lens that would function as an LED computer display, projecting images directly into a wearer's retina

A team at the University of Washington is developing a prototype contact lens that would function as an LED computer display, projecting images directly into a wearer's retina.

The project was announced back at the start of January 2008. But now the team is preparing to show off its prototype at the BioCas conference in Beijing later this month.

"Our hope is to create images that effectively float in front of the user perhaps 50cm to 1m away," University of Washington researcher Babak Parviz told New Scientist. This opens up the door to all manners of augmented-reality applications, similar to those location-aware apps seen on Android and the iPhone.

The researchers believe even more ingenious uses will be possible. For example, you could have subtitled translations beamed into your eye as you listen to someone speaking a foreign language.

This would obviously require technologies such as advanced speech recognition and translation algorithms, all performed in real time. This is still extremely difficult for full-size computers to perfect, let alone a contact lens with circuitry less than 1,000 times the width of a human hair.

Eye've got the power

Perhaps even more interesting is how the lenses are powered. Contacts, obviously, are too small to have a battery fitted to them. So the team is working on harnessing the tiny electrical current emitted by radio waves, specifically from mobile phones.

The hope is that mobiles, in addition to providing power to the tiny displays, would relay information to them. Perhaps they will also handle the processing of speech conversion as we mentioned earlier.

We'll be keeping our eye (giggle) on the feedback given to the team following its presentation at BioCas.

Contact lenses are not the only way people hope to advance themselves towards becoming eyeborgs, however. Rob Spence, a Canadian film-maker, said earlier this year that he was planning on using a camera embedded into one of his prosthetic eyes to capture footage for a documentary about public surveillance.

Hopefully the process isn't so much of a ball-ache that he has to put a lid on it.

 

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