Contact lenses could stream data across wearer's field of vision

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Researchers have taken a major step towards the Terminator-style streaming of real-time information across a person's field of vision.

A US/Finnish team of researchers has built a computerized contact lens and tested it successfully in the eyes of live rabbits.

Right now, the lens contains only a single pixel - but the team says it's a proof-of-concept for the creation of lenses with multiple pixels.

These could overlay computer-generated visual information onto the real world, diplaying, say, emails, texts or geographic information. They could also revolutionize gaming.

The lens, created by researchers at the University of Washington and Finland's Aalto University, consists of an antenna to harvest power sent out by an external source, along with an integrated circuit to store this energy and transfer it to a transparent sapphire chip containing a single blue LED.

One big hurdle was the fact that the human eye has a minimum focal distance of several centimetres, and therefore can't focus on anything as close as a contact lens.

To cope with this, the researchers incorporated a set of Fresnel lenses, much thinner and flatter than conventional lenses, to focus the projected image on to the retina.

When tested on a rabbit, the lens was found to cause no abrasion or other problems.

The researchers concede that there's a lot more owrk necessary before  fully functional, remotely powered, high-resolution displays can be produced.
For instance, when placed on the rabbit's eye, the device could only be remotely powered from a distance of less than two centimeters.

"We need to improve the antenna design and the associated matching network and optimize the transmission frequency to achieve an overall improvement in the range of wireless power transmission," says professor Babak Praviz.

"Our next goal, however, is to incorporate some predetermined text in the contact lens."