The March of Contact Lens Computers

Earlier on I briefly touched on what I imagined future personal computers might, in an awesome world, be like: contact lenses with light displays and tiny cameras for tracking your interaction with the displayed augmented reality. A new study has fed my fantasy (via BBC):

A new generation of contact lenses that project images in front of the eyes is a step closer after successful animal trials, say scientists.

The technology could allow wearers to read floating texts and emails or augment their sight with computer-generated images, Terminator-syle…

Currently, their crude prototype device can only work if it is within centimetres of the wireless battery.

And its microcircuitry is only enough for one light-emitting diode, reports the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

But now that initial safety tests in rabbits have gone well, with no obvious adverse effects, the researchers have renewed faith about the device’s possibilities.

They envisage hundreds more pixels could be embedded in the flexible lens to produce complex holographic images.

For example, drivers could wear them to see journey directions or their vehicle’s speed projected onto the windscreen.

Similarly, the lenses could take the virtual world of video gaming to a new level.

They could also provide up-to-date medical information like blood sugar levels by linking to biosensors in the wearer’s body.

Man, those are some tiny paragraphs. This is obviously a very, very early stage in this technology, and there could be any number of issues that prevent it from being feasible. If it is feasible though, I think it’s hard to overstate how revolutionary it would be, and I think this BBC article does indeed understate it. Who cares about taking the world of video gaming to a new level, when it could take the world of living to a new level?

There are already smartphone apps with augmented reality that, when you point the camera at a restaurant, for example, will overlay on the image reviews for that restaurant. There’s also an app that can translate signs in real time on your phone’s display:

I don’t even have a smartphone, so I assume there are plenty of other examples of augmented reality apps. Imagine everyone saw the world through services like this, all the time? I can’t imagine it would be long before we could combine social networking and face recognition to do the same thing with people. Look at a friend, and their last ten status updates pop up, or online articles they’ve read lately, so you know what to talk about. Look at a new acquaintance and you can get their relevant information displayed immediately. Even without the process being interactive, this would dramatically change how we interact with the world in a way that I can’t fully imagine now. 

Okay, that’s enough sci-fi gushing for me today. If you have other ideas on the future of personal computers, I’d love to hear about them. 


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