If you were waiting for smart glasses to become more mainstream or for smart contact lenses to be introduced, you might have to wait a bit longer. Smart contact lenses might be on the horizon very soon, but the first use will be more for medical purposes than for entertainment.
Smart Contact Lens Clinical Trials
A prototype smart contact lens is currently in clinical trials at the University of Gent in Belgium. The trials are in association with the international research and innovation center for nanotechnologies and digital technologies, Imec.
A “bubble” that surrounds a liquid crystal “screen” is sandwiched within the smart contact lens, whether it is a hard contact lens or a soft contact lens. In addition to the display, an ASIC (application specific integrated circuit) controller, light sensor, accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as a thin solid-state lithium-ion battery.
The liquid crystal display is used to block light. When the light sensor notices that the light is too bright, it warns the screen to go black, which blocks some of the light.
You might be wondering how all of this is going to fit into your eye, but it’s said to be comfortable, with all of those pieces not adding a lot of bulk. Battery life is designed to last all day so it can be removed at night like regular contact lenses. The lens works like an artificial iris, so it fits perfectly, much like a regular contact lens.
Help various eye diseases
But it will not be used for entertainment or information purposes. It is intended for people with eye disorders.
“We would like to be able to change people’s vision using liquid crystal [display]», Said Andrés Vásquez Quintero, assistant professor in Ghent. “About the different illnesses or disorders that we can help, it’s mainly people who are very sensitive to light.”
This high sensitivity to light is called photophobia. While this does cause vision problems, there are others who could benefit from the same help, such as people with neurological conditions such as chronic migraines and traumatic brain injury, Quintero said.
He further explained that “it’s called photophobia. … We can help these patients reduce the amount of light that enters the eye, and then they can go about their daily lives with a better quality of life.
Yet although it started out as a medical device, it will later be used 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 low vision with augmented reality but with a very low amount of pixels,” said Quintero. “So it’s not like we’re going to put a film on our contact lenses,” because “we need more power and computing power, but we’re going to give simple signals to people without vision.”
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 may appear to warn them.
“You can integrate different sensors into our contact lens platform, and then you are able to give the patient some kind of feedback on what’s really in the body, because anything you can measure in the tear fluid, you can also measure it in the blood ”. said Quintero. “So actually it’s very interesting, but of course for that you need specialized sensors, you need more power, and then a way to communicate the data from the contact lenses. “
While other devices can connect via bluetooth, that wouldn’t help the wearer much as it would just be a greater drain on the battery, preventing them from lasting all day.
Smart contact lenses are far from the only health wearable. Read on to learn more about the Amazon Halo Band which tracks health and fitness.
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