Some of us can’t help but look to the future, and pretty soon, we may be looking at it through contact lenses with a virtual reality overlay.
Engineers at the University of Washington have developed a contact lens that creates a virtual display superimposed over the normal field of vision. By using a transparent part of the eye to place instrumentation, the contact will be safe for human wear. The lenses will be imprinted with an assortment of electronic circuits and lights to make superimposition possible. A future version of the product might include the addition of wireless communication via the lens. The team has already demonstrated that rabbits can wear the lens for 20 minutes safely without any adverse effects, and are looking into a feasible production method for the contacts. There are still some major wrinkles to be ironed out in the manufacturing process, given that the materials need to be both safe for the body and incredibly small.
The enhancement creates the potential for a merger between our virtual and real worlds, overlaying them into one frame of vision. It would allow people to use online services such as Google Earth in real time over the real landscape in front of us. All those giant pushpins will become a reality, making it much easier to navigate, since the desired location will have a great big arrow or identifier for you. Less practical but more exciting is the potential gaming experience these lenses will provide.
But don’t throw away the digital glasses just yet. A very basic version with a few pixels may be available soon, but a fuller realization of this concept may take years. Even with obstacles still to be overcome, these engineers have achieved something taken straight from a science fiction movie or novel. Eye enhancements… check.
Which sense is next?