By Franklin Aguilar and Chris David
Imagine your day out in the city with augmented reality contact lenses. You want to get something for lunch. Simply look around. Hovering over your field of vision, you see restaurants, types of cuisine, opening hours, menu options and visitor ratings. You want to take the bus? Look to the sign for the nearest bus stop, and the next arrival and route number pop up in a dynamic display. In the corner of your vision, you see the time, temperature and weather forecast. And a small window to your left shows your latest incoming calls, emails and messages.
You have something like a pilot’s heads-up display, but for your entire life.
What are the applications?
Additional applications include connected bio-sensors for diabetics and those with other health conditions, to monitor heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. The lenses could notify you and your doctor of any dangerous changes in your body, so you can take action before things get out of hand.
What else? Augmented reality (AR) contact lenses could display a live teleprompter for speeches and meetings. The lenses could provide navigation while driving and walking. Even night vision might be possible! Made of flexible, transparent nano materials, the AR lenses would receive wireless power and relay data to a connected phone.
Would it really work?
All this could be possible with internet-connected, augmented reality contact lenses. But is this technology truly feasible? Or only something for science fiction?
Plans, prototypes and patents have circulated for years now. Companies including Google, Sony, Samsung, Innovega and Mojo Vision have developed projects to push the idea of AR lenses. The National Science Foundation and DARPA also provided funding (the military applications of an AR lens would be endless).
The Mojo Lens
The most promising prototype so far comes from Mojo Vision, in the form of the Mojo Lens. Founded in 2015, Mojo Vision received startup funding of over 100 million dollars. The company showed off a demo at CES in early 2020, in the form of “the smallest and densest dynamic display ever made”. But the demo version consisted of merely holding a device close to your eye, to get a feel for what a working version would look like.
There wasn’t a working prototype you could actually put in your eye. And any such device will require FDA approval.
No matter what the companies may be promising, the technology is a long way off. Ex-director of Google X, Parviz says that wearable AR smart lenses aren’t “anywhere near ready”.
Augmented reality contact lenses have the potential to fundamentally change the way we look at the world. Google Glass was merely a beta version of something much more exciting and paradigm-shifting. A pair of AR lenses will show a layer of data over everything you do.
Have you ever used corrective contact lenses? Would you consider an augmented reality smart lens? At this point, we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see the technology in action.