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Future Contact Lenses Can Put Pixels on Our Eyeballs

If you've ever become frustrated by the failure of the heads up display (HUD) staple of modern video games to actually exist, your angst may soon be at an end. A joint research project between the University of Washington and Finland's Aalto University has resulted in the creation of a prototype that allows the projection of digital images onto a contact lens.

Consisting of a 500 X 500 um2 silicon harvester and radio integrated circuit (plus an antenna), it contains a a custom-designed micro-light emitting diode with Peak emission of 475 nm, placed on a 750 x 750 um2 transparent (synthetic) sapphire chip. The whole thing is integrated onto a standard contact lens. An alternate version with micro-Fresnel lenses (Fresnel lenses, incidentally, were invented for use in lighthouses) was also developed, and both versions have been tested on live, anesthetized rabbits with no apparent ill-effects.

At present, the device can only display 1 pixel of data. Not enough for the consumer to scroll through their personal inventory, set a map destination or select a mission, but a staggering development nonetheless.

"A display with a single controllable pixel could be used in gaming, training, or giving warnings to the hearing impaired," the researchers say. "We also believe it is possible to develop systems with better resolution, color, range and computing power. Displays with a handful of pixels could be used to provide directional information, and displays with hundreds of pixels used to read short emails or text messages." Which is to say, within our lifetimes we may see the elimination of devices as cumbersome as our tiny smartphones in favor of HUD visible only to the contact lens-wearer. Which means, of course, that High School message-passing will become much harder to police.

Lest we get too excited, 'full color, stand-alone contact lens displays' are still years away, and this device is more meant to prove the technology is possible, rather than fast-track the transition to fully augmented reality. More importantly, the power source, though wireless, has very limited range. Outside the body it can draw a charge from a source around 1 meter away. Implanted, that distance declines to an all-but-useless 2 centimeter range. Not very practical, as wireless power goes, but on the bright side, that working biofuel battery we learned about back in October suddenly has exciting real-world applications.

The abstract is currently available on the Journal of Micromechanis and Microengineering. A video explaining part of the technology behind this development is available below.

  • amk-aka-Phantom
    This can't come soon enough! I won't use it for gaming, but I can see this being VERY useful for any outdoor activities (driving, mountain tracking (or is it trailing?), cycling, running, etc.) - it will have compass. wind speed and direction, distance measurement.... I'd SO get that over any stupid tablet/smartphone...

    ... and don't forget X-ray vision :D
  • alhanelem
    maybe we will get augments by 2027?
  • pent5ht
    i want it to be able to broadcast video games and movies straight into my eye
  • tanjo
    HUD glasses isn't enough?

    1 pixel? Was it visibly sharp? What was the perceived size of that pixel? Don't forget eyes have limited focal point depending on the distance.

    They're developing this to advertise directly to your eyes XD
  • qhoa1385
  • stalker7d7
    How long until we get these surgically implanted for permanent HUDs? 50 years? 30 years? Less?
  • DjEaZy
    ... real retina display....
  • stiehl
    Patent it before Apple does!
  • alidan
    alhanelemmaybe we will get augments by 2027?deus ex: human revolution like augments will come sooner than we think, dont know if the article was ever posted here or not.

    tanjoHUD glasses isn't enough?1 pixel? Was it visibly sharp? What was the perceived size of that pixel? Don't forget eyes have limited focal point depending on the distance.They're developing this to advertise directly to your eyes XD
    if you are useing an outside apperatice, you can get by the focal point of the eye limitations, but think of it this way,

    1led has 3 lights, for a deaf person, those 3 lights could be for natural disaster warnings, like tornado, earthquake, and water related (tsunami) correct me if im wrong, but we can predict earthquakes to a limited extent, tornados to a better, and tsunami (really any big wave) this could be use full to them.

    stalker7d7How long until we get these surgically implanted for permanent HUDs? 50 years? 30 years? Less?
    look up implantable contacts, they suck.
    the tech for a permant hud will be around the time that we can replace the eye in a blind person with something that is close to as good as our own eyes.


    all that aside, i cant put crap in my eyes, just so not comfortable with the idea of putting contacts in, takeing them out and so on... if i was more ok with it, i would so get them, just because i have oily as hell skin, and glasses get smudged in under 5 minuets.... anyway, i would prefer a glasses based hud over a contact based.
  • jellico
    I'm still hoping for direct neural interface within my lifetime. Talk about the ultimate in immersive gaming experience!