If you’ve been waiting for smart glasses to become more mainstream or for smart contact lenses to be introduced, you may have to wait a bit longer. Smart contact lenses could be on the horizon very soon, but the first use will be more for medical purposes than for entertainment.
Smart Contact Lenses Clinical Trials
A prototype smart contact lens is currently in clinical trials at Gent University in Belgium. The trials are in association with international research and innovation hub for nanotechnology and digital technologies, Imec.
Sandwiched into the smart contact lens, whether it’s a hard contact lens or a soft contact lens, is a “bubble” that surrounds a liquid crystal “display.” Along with the display is a controller ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit), light sensor, accelerometer and gyroscope, and a thin solid-state lithium-ion battery.
The liquid crystal display is used to block light. When the light sensor notices the light is too bright, it notifies the display to turn black, which blocks some of the light.
You may be wondering how all that is going to fit into your eye, but it’s said to be comfortable, with all those parts not adding much bulk. The battery life is intended to last all day so that they can be taken out at night like regular contact lenses. The lens works like an artificial iris, so definitely fits, much like a regular contact lens.
Helping Various Eye Diseases
But it won’t be used for entertainment or informational purposes. It’s meant for people with eye disorders.
“We would like to be able to change the vision of people by using the liquid crystal [display],” said Ghent assistant professor Andrés Vásquez Quintero. “About the different diseases or disorders that we can help, mostly it’s people that have high sensitivity to light.”
That high sensitivity to light is called photophobia. While it causes vision problems, there are others who could benefit from the same help, such as people with neurological problems such as chronic migraines and traumatic brain injuries, said Quintero.
He further explained that “this is called photophobia. … We can help these patients to reduce the amount of light that enters into the eye, and then they can then go ahead through their daily life with a better quality of life.”
Yet, despite it starting out as a medical device, it will be used further down the line for high-end augmented reality, but first, it will be focused on helping people.
“The first step … is that we are going to help patients with a low vision problem with augmented reality but a very low amount of pixels,” said Quintero. “so it’s not like we’re going to have a movie displayed on our contact lens,” as “we need more powered and more computing power, but we’re going to give simple signals for people with no vision.”
The examples given are arrows that could be added to a person’s visual field to show them whether to turn left or right. If conditions are unsafe, a stop sign could show up to provide them with a warning.
“You can integrate different sensors in our contact lens platform, and then you’re able to give the patient some kind of feedback about what’s really in the body because whatever you can measure in the tear fluid, you can also measure in blood,” said Quintero. “So, in fact, that’s very interesting, but of course, for that, you need specialized sensors, you need more power, and then a way to communicate the data out from the contact lenses.”
While other devices could connect up through Bluetooth, it wouldn’t help the wearer much, as it would just be a bigger battery drain, preventing them from lasting all day.
The smart contact lenses are far from the only health wearable. Read on to learn about the Amazon Halo Band that tracks health and fitness.