When imaginative researchers and inventors put their minds together, even products and devices that we think we understand completely can be flipped entirely on their heads, leaving us with something very new and exciting. And this is exactly what is happening in the world of contact lenses.
Would you believe that LED-enhanced electronic contact lenses are on the horizon? The technology needed to build them already exists and is being developed, which means that LED contact lenses could someday be available and in wide use. Current research has limited the amount of information that can be displayed on the devices, but there is no reason to think that this technology will not develop and improve greatly in the coming years.
R and D is Happening at a Rapid Pace
A team of engineers exploring this technology is based at the University of Washington in Seattle. Their prototype lens incorporates an imprinted electronic circuit and LED lights. One of the researchers, Babak Amir Parviz, published a paper describing the work in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering. He states, “Some day maybe we’ll have full-fledged streaming in your contact lenses.”
A person looking through a completed lens would see what the display generated superimposed on the world outside, like an image reflected on a car’s windshield, or even in mid-air, Parviz explained.
While the idea of augmented reality has been with us for quite some time, it was only in 2011 that researchers at the University of Washington were able to make the big jump and build a working prototype. This prototype uses red LEDs and was worn briefly by rabbits without any negative effects (other than scaring a rabbit). Of course, this early system is rudimentary and that means it can only be worn for a few minutes. The reason for this is that the hard plastic the contact lens is made from doesn’t allow enough airflow to the eye.
Researchers say that this is a step towards a form of bionic vision. Additional possibilities could include greatly improved vision for those with eye problems. The other possibilities are also quite staggering, as it is possible that these LED contact lenses could someday be communicating with the world at large wirelessly, making it possible to get updated information quickly and easily.
As the team continues to work on the basic technology, it hopes to add wireless communication capabilities and to provide power to the system using both radio-frequency techniques and solar cells placed on the lens.
LED Contact Lenses Could Quite Literally Change How You See the World
Across the globe, researchers are hoping to make the augmented reality visions of sci-fi come to life. Imagine a world where any kind of visual display can be seamlessly placed onto a contact lens and then viewed effortless by the viewer! The possibilities are so exciting, as they could change virtually every aspect of how we interact with the world. In theory, every object we see could be tagged with additional information not at our fingertips, but instead just a glance away.
The implications for everything from entertainment and the business world to retail are quite staggering. Soon it may be possible to watch 3D television not on your smart phone, but on your LED contact lenses. But that is only the beginning of the possibilities. Anywhere there is a need to present information, LED contact lenses could come into play and offer up new and exciting options. Every business and aspect of our lives could in ways both large and small be impacted by this technology and novel use of LEDs.
LED technology is opening up options and possibilities that would have been unthinkable before this technology. What LED contact lenses serve to underscore is just how flexible and adaptable LEDs are and just how ubiquitous their presence will be now and in the future.