Virtual Reality Contact Lenses

 Posted by on September 5, 2009  Add comments
Sep 052009
Contact Lenses with Electronics on board

Contact Lenses with Electronics on board

Engineers at the University of Washington are using  microscopic manufacturing techniques to combine a flexible contact lens with an electronic circuit and lights on board.

The concept is at a very early stage, with mockups only being trialled, but rabbits have had them in their eyes for twenty minutes at a time with no adverse effects.

There are a multitude of problems and pieces of the puzzle to be ironed out, like how to power these things, keeping the contacts from rolling around in your eye, how to provide light to create a “Viewable” screen, how to ensure that heat generation does not become a problem amongst many others. Again the possibilities are absolutely boundless, everything from HUD screens for the military and aviation industries down to simply using these products for gaming.

Another very futuristic product with only a few years to go before becoming viable.

They’ve already fabricated prototype lenses with an LED, a small radio chip, and an antenna, and transmitted energy to the lens wirelessly, lighting the LED. This could be the basis for a “Screen” on the contact. The LEDs by themselves however would merely produce a fuzzy splotch of color in the wearer’s field of vision.

Current test models.

Current test models.

To allow for focusing, the “Virtual image” must be pushed away from the cornea. One way to do that is to employ an array of even smaller lenses placed on the surface of the contact lens similar to what is used in current “VR” Glasses, arrays of such microlenses have also been used in the past to focus lasers. Spacing a pixel and a microlens 360 micrometers apart would be enough to push back the virtual image and let the eye focus on it easily. To the wearer, the image would seem to hang in space about half a metre away, (depending of course on the microlens used).

One other difficulty in putting a display on the eye is preventing movement of the lens relative to the pupil while wearing it. Lenses that correct for astigmatism are weighted on the bottom to maintain a specific orientation, that holds it within a few degrees. Something similar could be used to facilitate keeping the screen in the same place.

It won’t be long until we see these starting to appear in science fiction movies (maybe they already have, I just don’t recall seeing it appear to date) and if this technology comes to fruition even the Nintendo DS, Mobile communications devices or computers will take off in a much different direction.

Eye, Eye Captain.

  9 Responses to “Virtual Reality Contact Lenses”

Comments (9)

    Terminator vision. now that’s what i want.

    seriously though, I am really interested in seeing this stuff happen. Most of the tricks that were created for heads-up displays and VR goggles will also work on this.

    what i would love to see is an application which recognises who you are speaking to, and subtitles the person with their name, phone number, any notes you have about them, etc. think of it as an augmented memory.

    an even better trick, which I’ve also seen that progress is being made in, is to ignore the contacts altogether and interface directly with the optic nerves.


    You can see people naked with these gadgets.

    Not always a good thing.


    I am as yet not ready to join the Borg collective. However resistance may be futile.


    If they can employ a series of layered “bendable” lenses then I’d just be interested in being able to zoom my normal vision with these things. How about a special combo set of these new electronic lenses that give you 20x optical zoom, infra-red sight and night vision?

    On the virtual reality end of it, just think what MS for instance could do for these things. Include a set of VR gloves so you could manipulate objects in the new “Windows VR” OS perhaps? Throw in a modification to one of the rooms in your house that lines the walls, ceiling and floor with sensors and it’s goodbye reality. The scary thing about it is that it could actually be done and relatively soon too. Man…talk about jacking-in to the Matrix. (or perhaps I’m going overboard with this?)


    The strange part about all of these technologies is that for some reason I keep thinking… “Why haven’t we done this already?”


    why not welding them on the eye? Or use nails?


    Interesting. Next people will be able to see right through you. And then, again, maybe that isn’t a bad idea for some folks. Alan


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