Samsung has virtual reality covered with the Gear VR, but the Korean giant might have also plans to enter the world of augmented reality. However, based on a patent, it won’t be with a headset or even a pair of glasses. It could very well be a smart contact lens.
The patent, titled “Smart contact lens for augmented reality and methods of manufacturing and operating,” was filed in South Korea in 2014 and was published recently. It’s a contact lens that consists of a small display, camera, RF antenna, and sensors to detect eye movement. The lens would connect to a smartphone, presumably a Galaxy phone, and the user would control certain inputs by blinking.
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Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that the user can see the displayed image and the real world at the same time. With virtual reality, the user is totally immersed into another world because all that is visible is the display in the headset.
While a headset is okay for virtual reality, Samsung thinks a smart lens is the way to go for augmented reality. The patent states the need for a smart contact lens because the image quality that is projected suffers when using glasses. In fact, the patent specifically mentions “Google Glass” by name when referring to current heads-up displays. Incidentally, Google is rumored to be developing its own smart contact lens as well.
Samsung’s patent is mostly about the design of the lens, not what it can do. However, one example explained how blinking your eye would instruct the camera in the lens to take pictures. The patent never mentions receiving notifications from your phone, but we presume you would be able to.
As to what Samsung might call this smart lens, a Gear Blink trademark from 2014 might be our best clue. This trademark was filed in both South Korea and the U.S., and it was rumored to be associated with a Google Glass-type of product. However, a smart contact lens that detects eye blinking seems to make the most sense.
We do need to point out that just because a device is patented, it doesn’t mean that it will definitely come to market. It takes a lot of research and development to bring a product to market, and a company’s focus can turn on a dime. With that said, we won’t be surprised if Samsung does offer something like this in the future.