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Displays Toys Science Technology

Bionic Contact Lens May Lead to Overlay Displays 213

Posted by Zonk
from the i-can-has-that-now dept.
pfman writes "A University of Washington researcher has developed a contact lens including circuitry and a matrix of LEDs. Although not yet a working prototype, this may be a foundation for terminator/robocop style overlay displays in which computer graphics could be superimposed on your normal vision. 'Building the lenses was a challenge because materials that are safe for use in the body, such as the flexible organic materials used in contact lenses, are delicate. Manufacturing electrical circuits, however, involves inorganic materials, scorching temperatures and toxic chemicals. Researchers built the circuits from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick, about one thousandth the width of a human hair, and constructed light-emitting diodes one third of a millimeter across.'" Kotaku notes that this has some obvious gaming implications.
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Bionic Contact Lens May Lead to Overlay Displays

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  • Um, what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tgd (2822)
    Someone needs to read a book on how the eye works.

    You only have receptor density for reading dead center in your eye. You can't put Terminator-style displays of to the side of your FOV, because you can only see motion and coarse detail off dead center.

    • Re:Um, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by webheaded (997188) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:46PM (#22084080) Homepage
      I highly doubt they planned putting the overlays anywhere but the center of the eye. If they're intelligent enough to make the thing, I'd have to assume they have someone there smart enough to tell them where it's going to work. ;)
      • by GroeFaZ (850443) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:47PM (#22084980)
        Damn it man, you closely dogded a 7-digit UID, and you DARE to try to talk some sense into a 4-digit UID? He knows almost 3 orders of magnitude more than you! I bet those scientists in question don't even HAVE an account on slashdot!
        • by DarkHelmet (120004) <mark.seventhcycle@net> on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:56PM (#22085108) Homepage
          Sir, that would imply that CmdrTaco is a deity among men. I will not stand for such heresy!
          • by GroeFaZ (850443)
            Sir, that would imply that CmdrTaco is a deity among men. I will not stand for such heresy!

            DarkHelmet (120004)

            And how would YOU know that? Better hope that Taco doesn't go Spanish-Inquisition on your butt!
            • by LordEd (840443)
              Its threads like that that I wish I bought the 3 or 4 digit UID in the auction.
              • by nschubach (922175)
                What I find interesting is that your ID is exactly 10,000 less than the GP. I know, it's silly. The first thing I thought was that you replied to your own post. I looked at the number before the name. (not a habit mind you...)
        • by PhuCknuT (1703)
          Well my even lower 4 digit uid says that all you need is some sort of eyeball motion tracking built in, and you can shift the image on the display in the opposite direction of the eye movement. So the image would appear in a fixed position relative to your head rather than your eye, and you can simply look to the side to read off-center test.
          • by nschubach (922175)
            Attach it to the lash. (Though, I don't know if I'd have surgery to attach a lens to my eye so I could see something.)

            That, and I thought contact lenses floated in your eye? For one, you'd have to secure it so it doesn't spin/move, and you'd also have to put in in right side up. Getting a screen in the center of the pupil would be pretty easy with an ultra high res micro grid as long as you can control the blink reflex. Keeping it there would be the problem.
        • by 7Prime (871679)
          While true that they probably have someone on staff that knows what's going on, putting an indicator in the center of the lens is not the solution. You read by scanning, not by holding your eye in one place and simply being able to read everything around it. Glasses are much more practical for HUDs or other types of readouts, because you can scan along them.

          The only way I could see contacts being usefull is if they also could detect eye position, and then their image (fed by a computer) could move the image
      • by s_p_oneil (795792)
        You missed the point. The overlay is 2-dimensional, which means it will be a number of pixels wide and high. He's saying that the only clear pixel will be the one in the center. The rest of them will always be in your peripheral vision, and they will always be blurry. If you try to look up to read something on the top, the whole overlay will move up with your eye, so you still won't be able to see it well.
    • Re:Um, what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by debianlinux (548082) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:46PM (#22084088)
      I believe TFA was referring to placing peripheral components such as wireless reception on the part of the lens that is not used by the eye for viewing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jack9 (11421)
      You're assuming we can't make better eyes to match the technology (by the time the technology is implemented).
    • by Tango42 (662363)
      Actually, you can't see anything dead centre, because that's where the optic nerve joins the retina. That's why astronomers are often given the tip of looking slightly to the side of dim objects so that they're easier to see. The best detail is visible just off-centre.

      Where it's best to put the data depends on what kind of data it is. If it's something you only need to be peripherally aware of (graphics, rather than text, presumably), it could be quite good off to the side. Having overlays in the middle of
      • Re:Um, what? (Score:5, Informative)

        by JesseL (107722) * on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:59PM (#22084256) Homepage Journal
        You're confusing two different phenomena. The blind spot from the optic nerve is not in the center of the eye. The reason for the astronomers trick is due to the distribution of rods (brightness receptors) and cones (color rectors) in the eye. There are more cones at the center of the retina, but the more sensitive rods are distributed more peripherally.
      • Re:Um, what? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Jott42 (702470) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:07PM (#22084370)
        The optic nerve does not exit at the dead center of the eye; the blind spot, where it connects, is to the side of the center. But the center of the eye has the highest concentration of cones, which gives us colour vision. To the sides the rods are more common, these have better sensitivity, but are only registering the amount of illumination, not the colour. Thus an astronomer who is searching for faint objects in the sky is better of looking to the side of the object, using the rods of the retina, than trying to see the objects in colour with the cones, as they are less sensitive to light.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by graft (556969)
      There are two orientations to consider: one is the orientation of your eyes, and the other the orientation of your face. You're right about the former, but for the latter you could easily place displays off to the side; you'd just have to look over to the left or right (eye-wise) to see 'em.
      • Which might be a bit more useful to me than 'terminator' style HUDs. I don't need to know how much fuel is in the gas tank of my car 100% of the time either, the information is slightly off from the important information (the road)
    • by zymano (581466)
      Can anyone see dust or debris on their eye ? Yes , but impossible to focus on.
    • by Rix (54095)
      Of course it would only be useful to have text dead centre, but a vague blur to the side could tell you that there is something to read.
    • True, but you could have the overlays sit off to the side until you moved your eye that way, which would cause them to shift their position to the center of your eye. Then when you looked forward again they would slide back down to the periphery. If don't correctly, you probably wouldn't notice their movement and they would seem to be sitting in the same place just waiting for you to look over at them.

      If you think about it, you don't see all the overlays on screen when watching the Terminator films either.
    • You only have receptor density for reading dead center in your eye. You can't put Terminator-style displays of to the side of your FOV, because you can only see motion and coarse detail off dead center.

      You're very correct. But now combine this with head/eye tracking.

      Suddenly looking in a different direction will shift the displayed picture in your lens, so you can read naturally. This in fact puts quite modest resolution requirements on your lens display, as it needs to be high-res only in the dead center.

      A
  • Do the Math (Score:4, Interesting)

    by crrkrieger (160555) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:46PM (#22084090)
    Let's see, LEDs 1/3 mm across. My pupil is about 5mm, so that gives me a resolution of about 15 pixels across. Not so good, especially considering that to get that 15 pixels I would have to block everything else!
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Additionally, the human eye was not meant to focus on something just a couple of mm in front of it.

      Go ahead, try it! You simply cannot focus that close to your eye.
      • by ByteSlicer (735276) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:43PM (#22084908)

        Go ahead, try it! You simply cannot focus that close to your eye.
        Warning: do not look at fork with remaining eye!
      • Re:Do the Math (Score:5, Insightful)

        by imgod2u (812837) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:52PM (#22085040) Homepage
        It wouldn't need to. The reason that focus is necessary is because the direction of incoming light rays are not aimed at the focal point for our light receptors. A display that is curved (and with LED's that emit light in the direction towards the natural center of the eye) would be a naturally focused image. In fact, one simply can't help *but* to focus on it.
        • by Goaway (82658)
          LEDs do not emit light in only one direction, however. Not even laser diodes do. Diode lasers differ from most other lasers in that they need focusing optics to create a proper beam.
        • The lens system of the eye (cornea, crystalline lens and the overall air/liquid interface) is a kind of parallel optical computer that applies a function to both the angle of incidence and the location of incidence in order that light coming from points on a roughly planar region in the scene map neatly to points on the retina. Interestingly, if you look through a pinhole, you force the angles of incidence and the location of incidence to be correlated and the lens system of your eye becomes a spatial modul
  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:47PM (#22084092)
    So how is it useful?
  • Two Questions: (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JesseL (107722) * on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:47PM (#22084106) Homepage Journal
    First: How are they envisioning powering a device like this?

    Second: It's my understanding that human vision requires continuous eye motion to maintain visual perception. Try holding your eyeball still by (gently) applying finger pressure to it through your eyelid. You'll notice after a few seconds that your field vision slowly shrinks into nothing. If an image moves in perfect sync with your eyeball, isn't your brain likely to stop seeing it after a short time?
    • RE: First: How are they envisioning powering a device like this?

      by the picture of the lens I would say wires.
      There's little pads big enough to glue/solder wire to.

      Doesn't sound too comfortable but the rabbit didn't complain...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        RE: First: How are they envisioning powering a device like this?

        by the picture of the lens I would say wires.

        Yes, and judging from the picture: multiple wires. But why, really? Wouldn't a single wire be enough? Place a contact pad elsewhere on the body, or use a conductive housing for the device connected to that single wire, and have it touch the body directly. That way you'd have the wire, and use the body/eyeball as return path for an electric current. Then superimpose a high frequency signal for data transmission.

        Other options:

        • Short-wave electromagnetic waves (a la RFID)
        • Some sort of tranparent (non
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by gnick (1211984)
          Using the body for a return path would make for a highly resistive path to ground and likely a very inefficient circuit. Of course, you can cut the resistance considerably if you're willing to impale yourself with a return probe.

          Here's an experiment:
          1) Squeeze one of the probes on an ohmmeter between the thumb and fore-finger of one of your hands.
          2) Press the other probe against your eye and note the resistance.
          3) Now, take the probe you're holding in your hand and jab it into a random location on your bod
        • by Telvin_3d (855514)
          "Some sort of tranparent (non toxic!) materials layered in between to form a low-power battery"

          I don't know about you, but I strongly object to placing a battery of any form directly on my eyeball. It doesn't take a very high failure rate to make this one a bad idea (eye-dea?).
    • There's plenty of body heat to go around to power such things... course making a generator so small as to utilize that would be quite tricky to be sure. This is all really just part of nano-technology in general, once they can power tiny nano bots traveling through our bodies this would just be right alongside that.
      • by JesseL (107722) *
        The trouble with using heat to power a device like this is that you need someplace for the heat to go in order to get any useful work from it. I can't see how you could get much of a thermal gradient across something as thin as a contact lens, or how you could get an effective heat sink/radiator on the surface of a contact lens.
    • by GroeFaZ (850443)
      It's my understanding that human vision requires continuous eye motion to maintain visual perception. Try holding your eyeball still by (gently) applying finger pressure to it through your eyelid. You'll notice after a few seconds that your field vision slowly shrinks into nothing.

      The effect you describe might also simply be the result of the very pressure you apply to your eyeball, making for a so-called "inadequate stimulus". You would cause the receptor cells in your eye to do something, but eyes were
      • by JesseL (107722) *
        You, me, and everyone else already have a scotoma that our brain effectively filters from conscious perception. It's right there in the second paragraph of the Wikipedia article you linked.

        • by GroeFaZ (850443)
          That's true. The reason why we don't perceive it, however, is not that it's stationary, but that each eye fills in the missing info for the other (as stated in the 2nd paragraph as well). In other words, to make these lenses work, they would just have to provide the same image, slightly shifted so that the eyes couldn't help each other out. That's trivial to design; remember that image projecting eye glasses are nothing new in principle, just think of virtual reality gear that's been around for decades.
          • by JesseL (107722) *
            But if you close or cover a single eye, you still don't perceive a blind spot. Your brain still manages to fill in the missing pieces. The only way to detect your blind spot is with a demonstration like this one [wikipedia.org].
    • First: How are they envisioning powering a device like this?
      Solar power would be pretty cool. :-)
    • by The Raven (30575)
      Your field of vision shrinks when applying pressure due to increased fluid pressure within the eye... this is why glaucoma is tested for, because high fluid density in the eye will quickly cause blindness, and shortly (days? weeks?) after that permanent blindness. If I understand correctly, the high pressure prevents the normal working of the nerves that carry the signal back to your optic nerve. Maybe the blood is cut off... maybe the fluid pressure messes with the functioning of the cells... I dunno.

      But I
  • by grumpyman (849537) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:53PM (#22084160)
    Isn't that safer? I don't want implanted chips or digital display in my body.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JesseL (107722) *
      My Acuvue contacts don't seem particularly unsafe. If they can make display contacts comparable to what I'm wearing now I'd give them a shot. If there are attached wires or too much wattage involved, I'll pass...
      • They may be fine most of the time, but you still have the risk of possible infection or abrasion. They can avoid those problems entirely by using glasses or another form of media which doesn't directly touch your eyes. Don't get me wrong, this is a cool idea, but I'm not particularly hot about the idea of contact lenses (I don't wear/need glasses btw.), much less contact lenses that will hold an electrical charge.

        I think this will be moot in the semi-near future anyway. With the work they're doing with d

      • Last I checked there was about a 1 in 100,000 risk of a vision-threatening infection with contacts in general, and an even higher risk with extended wear. My O.D. keeps trying to talk me into getting Lasik, because not only is it now cheaper than contacts over the long term, it is *almost* but not quite lower risk for someone as nearsighted as I am (-6, -7 diopter).

        Like a lot of science, the applications for this may not be obvious right away, or obvious to a layman.

        [Insert layman joke here.]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by wiggles (30088)

      I don't want implanted chips or digital display in my body.

      Speak for yourself! I'm waiting for the day I can plug my ear into the USB port of my computer and download pr0n straight to my brain.
      • by Selfbain (624722)
        Ya I gave that a try and it doesn't work. The doctor thinks he might be able to restore my hearing though.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)
        Speak for yourself! I'm waiting for the day I can plug my ear into the USB port of my computer and download pr0n straight to my brain.

        I'm actually hoping for the opposite: that the computer will be able to download pr0n from my brain. I'll then open my imagination as not just one of the most eclectic pay sites on the internet, but also one of the most prolific with new content updates approximately every seven seconds.

        I'll be rich, from doing the same thing I'm already doing anyway!
      • Man, why not just hack your nervous system to spontaneously orgasm at will?
    • by luna69 (529007) *
      > I don't want implanted chips or digital display in my body.

      Believe it or not, you might well be in the minority here. :)
  • yuck! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @02:55PM (#22084196)
    What about those of us who are squicked by the thought of anything getting near our eyes, let alone contact lenses?

    While I have no expertise in the field, I've always assumed that we'd first see this with glasses. The classic HUD on aircraft is an image projected onto glass in the pilot's line of sight. I figured we'd see this when we either had a) some sort of transparent material with a tiny lcd grid so that wireframe graphics could be overlaid on the real world objects or b) VR goggles scaled down to the size of comfortable glasses with the world projected inside with the overlays on top.

    The one other variant I could think of for a projector technology would be glasses with a tiny low-power laser tracking the retina and beaming photons into it.

    Thinking about VR, though, it does make you wonder about the interrogation potential for completely controlling someone's environment. If you thought the Ministry was scary in 1984, just imagine the interrogator controlling your entire reality. There was actually a surprisingly good TNG episode where Riker was put through VR interrogation so that he would reveal something important. Each of those constructed realities seemed entirely convincing at first but as he started to find flaws, the reality would shatter and be replaced by something new. Scary.
    • by snl2587 (1177409)

      What about those of us who are squicked by the thought of anything getting near our eyes, let alone contact lenses?

      Well, I guess no super bionic capabilities for you!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by brkello (642429)
      Umm, you get over it like everyone else does when they have to wear contacts?
    • Thinking about VR, though, it does make you wonder about the interrogation potential for completely controlling someone's environment. If you thought the Ministry was scary in 1984, just imagine the interrogator controlling your entire reality. There was actually a surprisingly good TNG episode where Riker was put through VR interrogation so that he would reveal something important. Each of those constructed realities seemed entirely convincing at first but as he started to find flaws, the reality would shatter and be replaced by something new. Scary.

      That may have been the operative theory behind the CIA's LSD experiments, although they never worked out. There was a Battlestar Galactica episode where hallucinogens were used to interrogate Baltar, and in fact some sort of hallucination (caused by a yet-unknown means) was used before that point to control him rather thoroughly.

  • Since it's not a true implant to get the clock to display floating in the corner of my eye. The actual implant cost me a few points of karma so that's all my cyber samurai had and... Wait this isn't a thing about Shadow Run?
  • I, for one, welcome our new bionic rabbit overlords.

    Don't rabbits have good eyes anyway? They seem to be eating carrots all the time.
  • Funny, I am reading "Rainbows End" by Vernor Vinge these days, and now this article comes out. It's like deja vu all over again.
    • I read that recently as well. Good discussion of the implications of augmented reality [wikipedia.org], though I think some of his other books were better stories.

      For another depiction of AR, I recommend Dennou Coil [wikipedia.org], a 24 episode anime set in a not-too-distant future, where AR is commonplace and there is a second-life type virtual world overlayed on top of the real world. (It's been fansubbed, but not officially released in English.)

  • The researchers hope to power the whole system using a combination of radio-frequency power and solar cells placed on the lens, Parviz said.

    "Please stare into laser with remaining eye to recharge lens."
  • ... until someone loses an eye.

    circuits from layers of metal only a few nanometers thick

    Hmm... A lens containing microscopic pieces of metal next to my cornea.
    What could go wrong?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jam244 (701505)

      A lens containing microscopic pieces of metal next to my cornea. What could go wrong?
      They said the same thing about regular contact lenses too.
    • by Goaway (82658)
      Sheets of glass right next to your eyes? What could go wrong?
  • Aside from all of the other problems people have pointed out, what happens when you blink? The display moves and then settles back into position? Movement of the lens isn't a big deal when the whole thing is clear, but I would imagine it would be really annoying when there is a display on it.
    • by jellie (949898)
      Soft contact lenses are designed so that they act like a suction on your eye. They can do this because the material is mostly oxygen-permeable. They will, however, still move or rotate slightly in your eye, though it's usually not very noticeable. The orientation of toric lenses is important because it's supposed to correct for astigmatism in the eye; these lenses are usually prism-ballasted (the bottom of the lens is heavier) so that they keep the correct orientation.

      Hard (rigid gas permeable) lenses do no
  • Out of focus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Viadd (173388) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:22PM (#22084562)
    An LED at the surface of the eye's cornea/lens will flood the entire retina with light. It will appear as a red glare filling your field of view, and not as a little pixel of light. That is because the surface of the lens is out of focus, and so the wide angle light from the LED just spreads out.

    If it were an array of lasers with tight beams, then it could work, but you can't make small lasers produce tight beams(due to the diffraction limit) without additional optics that couldn't fit under the eyelid.
  • "yes boss, I'll get on with the progress report for this afternoon just as soon as Jenna Jameson finishes what she's doing in RetinaScope(T). And no, don't expect me to be standing up anytime soon."

    as with all things technical/IT - this will be subverted for porn, spam and profit before you can sneeze.
  • They're pretty neat but if you look at the sun it bur#!2k4#$#$#_#_####[NO EYEBALL FOUND]
  • by TomRC (231027) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:38PM (#22084816)
    It's possible that they've thought of the issue of focusing the image.

    One possibility would be that the display would use tiny lasers, to project very narrow beams of light at just a small group of receptors on the retina.

    Different eye shapes/sizes would seem to make that difficult, but there's probably some way to do it, even if it means having to have "prescription" displays that match your eyes.
  • Assuming that you could lay down the LEDs in a dense display, how could you see it? The contact lens is in contact with the cornea and damn near the pupil, nowhere near the imaging position of the eye. You can't image scratches on your contact lenses or cornea because it isn't anywhere near where the eye focuses. Of course you could generate diffraction patterns that would result in images when focused by the eye but that would require phase modulation and insane resolution.

    Of course you could always put a
  • by Angelwrath (125723) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @03:44PM (#22084918)
    The Goatse virus for bionic vision.
  • by tsotha (720379)
    As soon as I can get a reticle tied to my skull gun, we're in business!
  • Issues (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PhotoGuy (189467) on Thursday January 17, 2008 @04:37PM (#22085690) Homepage
    At first, I was thinking that focus would be the main issue, since the middle of your lens is where all the light rays from the external world cross at an almost-point. Being so close to that (on the cornea), this lens might have focus issues.

    But maybe not. All it really has to do is put incredibly small pixels there to colour (or obscure) the light from a given point. As long as pixels don't overlap too much (when out of focus), it could work.

    I will be interesting to see how this develops further.
  • I'm really surprised that no one has brought up Vinge's new book Rainbow's End yet. The idea of having contact lenses as monitors is a key technology in the book (along with a wearable computer to power it). In the book, the lenses were used to overlay VR over the real world. With the number of pixels that each lens was supporting, I'm totally amazed that none of the characters had their eyes fried out. I also thought that the mobile, combat routers was a cute idea, but that's a different topic :-)
  • Tiny pieces of metal near eyeballs don't mix. What happened to the conductive plastic breakthrough from 2 years ago?

Nobody's gonna believe that computers are intelligent until they start coming in late and lying about it.

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