A new generation of contact lenses assembled with small circuits and LED lights could make the dream of 'bionic sight' a reality. A research group at the University of Washington in Seattle has made an electronic contact lens model.
"This is not a device that can provide the sight of a hawk or the ability to read subtitles that translate a film into another language," says Prof. Babak Parviz, head of the research. "But the prototype will show us all the potential of LED contact lenses, and in the future we could maybe get the results I have illustrated."
How do they work?
To transform a pair of contact lenses into a functioning system, control and communication circuits, miniaturized antennas, thousands of LED lights capable of transmitting images directly on the retina have been integrated, all on a semi-transparent support, in order to guarantee the correct vision.
The potential is huge. Imagine a sensor that sends all the data on the level of sugar in his blood directly into the eye of a diabetic in real time, or a navigator that gives directions to a pedestrian 'on the fly' and without the need for anything else. Certainly the step that separates us from the marketing of contact lenses similar is still long but the possible applications that could arise are practically infinite and certainly new improvements to the product could be continuously developed. The Internet could also integrate beautifully with such a system. Free from the bonds of a physical display, information 'superimposed' on reality would float in front of us, enriching our every experience.
LED contact lenses: Health first
However, the first field of application of bionic vision will remain the medical one: contact lenses are used every day by hundreds of millions of people. When you test your blood, chances are a doctor will measure a good portion of the markers found on your eye cells. If properly programmed, electronic contact lenses of this type will be able to provide in-depth data on cholesterol, sodium and potassium levels, sending the data in real time to the analyst.
Currently, the limits to the development of this technology are all of hardware: miniaturizing the key elements of the system (first and foremost transceivers) is not easy. In addition, a new class of LED lights will need to be developed that are non-toxic to the human eye (most of the red ones unfortunately are).