Terminator-style vision gets closer with new ‘smart’ contact lenses


Scientists have successfully passed a government test of contact lenses that contain an electronic display on their surface, reports New Scientist. The test, which was conducted using rabbits, is the first step in the process of delivering Terminator-like augmented-reality to the masses.

“We have demonstrated the operation of a contact lens display powered by a remote radio-frequency transmitter in free space and on a live rabbit,” says the team of researchers, led by Babak Praviz of the University of Washington in Seattle. “This verifies that antennas, radio chips, control circuitry, and micrometer-scale light sources can be integrated into a contact lens and operated on live eyes.”


For now, the contact lenses only contain a single pixel. But bio-engineers hope to expand the resolution of the displays, which will one day make it possible to view an array of information, from GPS navigation data to text messages and even video content, directly on a contact lens. The initial application, however, will likely be less for entertainment, and more for medical purposes, like the monitoring of health data for people who suffer from glaucoma and diabetes.

The lenses work like this: Information is transmitted from a radio source, which must be placed within two centimeters from the eye to avoid disruption of the signal caused by bodily fluids. The lens contains a 5-millimeter-long antenna capable of receiving the information from the radio transmitter. An LED pixel shows the data from the radio transmitter to the eye.

Despite the incredibly small number of pixels, the researchers say the lenses already have usable applications.

“A display with a single controllable pixel could be used in gaming, training, or giving warnings to the hearing impaired,” the researchers say.

During the 40-minute test, the display continued to perform well. And the lenses caused no injury to the rabbits.

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