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Medicine Biotech

Augmented Reality In a Contact Lens 196

Toe, The writes "Bionanotechnology researcher Babak A Parviz writes about his research toward producing a computer interface in a contact lens. At the moment, they have only embedded a single LED, but they foresee a much more complex interface such as detailed in Vernor Vinge's Rainbows End. Such lenses potentially could also read human bio-information from the eye, providing medical information on the order of what is now taken from blood tests, but on a continuous basis. An example would be monitoring glucose levels for diabetics. The author states that, 'All the basic technologies needed to build functional contact lenses are in place,' and details what refinements and advances will be necessary to bring this technology to reality."
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Augmented Reality In a Contact Lens

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  • Cool (Score:3, Funny)

    by SilverHatHacker ( 1381259 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @12:52PM (#29275195)
    This is way better than having to hold your iPhone in front of you all the time...
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      Mine holds by itself [].

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      There was a slashdot discussion some time ago about something related (or maybe this is a dup, I don't know), and several people wondered when we would have augmented reality in a contact lens. Not there yet if they only have one LCD, but I can see having these things implanted in your eye []. I already have "augmented vision" from an implant - I got a CrystaLens implant in my left eye back in 2006. That eye now has better then 20/20 vision (although the surgeon said most people are lucky to get 20/20). You wi

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Implants are impractical for everyone to have. There's too much of a failure rate in all electronics, and the moment you have a dead pixel, I pity you. If someone doesn't like it, or needs an upgrade, you're screwed. Like the fact that they doubled the resolution since you got it? Too bad, your eye can't handle another surgery. Augmented reality belongs as just that: an augment, as in a set of glasses you can take off. There's no place in the human body for an upgrade slot.
        • by Ost99 ( 101831 )

          It will still happen.
          The day an implant will give a better result than glasses / lenses someone will do it.
          Need to upgrade an old implant? Replace the eye...
          Need to upgrade that old, out of date eye replacement and the fried nerve endings? Direct brain interface...
          Need to replace that worn old body ...

          In a hundred years time your "There's no place in the human body for an upgrade slot" will be hold in the same regard as we have for the Amish lifestyle.

  • by davide marney ( 231845 ) * <davide.marney@ne ... rg minus painter> on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @12:52PM (#29275197) Journal

    Here's an illustration [] that explains it all in a glance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by phayes ( 202222 )

      I suppose that the micro-lenses focus the output of a LED directly on the retina but do not see how LCD type displays referred to in TFS can work. Anyone?

      The problem for those who have not realized it is that LCDs in contact lenses are too close to the eye to work. They would subtract some light but be invisible much like a screen is when you put your face up to it & focus outside.

      • I suppose they'd have to use some sort of holographic optics to form a virtual image at a distance. I think this is possible, but it's not my field. Besides, for good AR, you want to be able to layer dark as well as bright images. When you're flying through a daylit cloud, your overlays should be black.

        Retinal projection displays are overrated in my experience. They throw your eye's imperfections into overwhelming, distracting relief.

        • by phayes ( 202222 )
          I suppose that in the future retinal displays would be able to correct for imperfections making retinal displays less distracting.
          • Maybe, but that's an awfully complex problem, especially since you only want to correct for some of the imperfections -- the ones your brain isn't already dynamically mapping out. I don't know which will come first, the technology to do that, or the technology to go directly into the cortex.

      • FTA

        One way to do that is to employ an array of even smaller lenses placed on the surface of the contact lens. Arrays of such microlenses have been used in the past to focus lasers and, in photolithography, to draw patterns of light on a photoresist. On a contact lens, each pixel or small group of pixels would be assigned to a microlens placed between the eye and the pixels. Spacing a pixel and a microlens 360 micrometers apart would be enough to push back the virtual image and let the eye focus on it easily. To the wearer, the image would seem to hang in space about half a meter away, depending on the microlens.

    • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:14PM (#29275459)

      Blinks. Leech kinetic energy from the eyelid. Teeny-tiny stick-on magnets go on the outside of your eyelid; they'll be the next fashion statement. Every time you blink, it induces a current pulse in the lens pickup coils.

      For that matter, it might be possible to collect energy from saccades and other natural eye movements. That's potentially a higher-res and lower-latency method for eye-tracking than cameras, which you'll need for AR, and if you can harvest energy to boot, so much the better!

      I don't have the physics/EE chops to run the numbers, but I'll bet you'd get more power this way than from a "solar cell module". (Who wants to keep their eyes wide open and directed toward a bright light source?)

      • by Cedric Tsui ( 890887 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:24PM (#29275597)
        Or you could use burn glucose.
        the cells in the cornea are fed not by blood vessels (which wouldn't be transparent) but get their oxygen from the air, and their nutrients and sugars from your tears. The lens could do the same thing.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Why not just replace the whole eye, or at least the lens part of it?

        Almost everyone over 50 has some vision issues, and many people much younger than that. Plus, you could add features like zoom or filters.

        That's the future - replacing parts of the body with better synthetic ones.

        • Then there's an upgrade, or a dead pixel, and you're now too old for anesthesia. Dead unit, then you have a small cold? Screwed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) *

          They are definitely working hard on artificial sight. However it will be quite a while before artificial sight will be near as good as natural sight. Certainly I'm not an expert, but I do find the field fascinating. Slashdot user BWJones is one of the field's prominent researchers, working for the University of Utah.

          There's a number of things which prohibit us from being able to produce drop-in replacements for eyeballs. One of which, for example, is that the precise nature of the work that the retina d

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            I see what you mean. That's why I suggested just replacing the lens, since it's much simpler and the retina is far less prone to developing problems.

            I think that inevitably such enhancements will become pretty much a requirement for most people. It will simple become impossible to compete with people who have them if you don't.

            What worries more far more than that though is the thought that it will become possible to record everything you see. Think CCTV is bad now? One day a person will be able to record an

      • A piezoelectric device would work much better, IMHO. Plus, the power source could be contained completely in the eyelid.
    • I absolutely love Popular Science illustrations like that; with little bitty boxes marked "Heinsenberg compensator" and "Zero-point module" and "Inertial dampener" and suchlike. They show me what future technology will be like.
      • Hmm... Inertial Damper... *draws a huge arrow on his motorcycle schematic pointing to the front forks*

        Heinsenberg compensator = Registered ECC setup for RAM.

        Zero-point module: processor with no floating point instructions.
    • Interesting. I have a drawing like that in my idea book. It's now two years old, and it's better, because the electronics cover only the area of the display, and nothing else. So if you can make them see-trough, you're done. You would have to lay them on top of each other anyway, as soon as you'd cover the whole field of view.

      I can also cut a cavity in a lens, glue an LED into it, and put some wires on it. Or make a small non-tranparent integrated circuit, and glue it between two lenses. That's not hard. Ev

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Oewyn ( 1526739 )
      Upon looking at the picture I have discovered a fatal flaw in the design.

      Solar cells.

      I could just see the warning on the HUD now:

      "WARNING, battery low, please look directly at the sun to recharge capacity."
  • yes! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr.Fork ( 633378 ) <> on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @12:54PM (#29275219) Journal
    Now, throw in a TrackIR-like system, and we can 100% totally immerse ourselves inside a virtual reality PC. No more monitors that have limited field of views etc. Also, imagine the military and civilian aspects - how a terminator can overlay regional information like that of the new iPhone app - but now it's in your eyes.

    But they're gonna have to figure out a) how to power it and b) how to transmit the data to these devices. That is true tech challenge.
    • Re:yes! (Score:4, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @12:58PM (#29275287)
      Just imagine being able to watch porn while you're tagging that not-so-hot chick you met at the bar!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fallingcow ( 213461 )

        No no no no no

        It'll be used to present a VR overlay ("skin") on your generic sex-bot, which will be printed with a pattern that the lenses can easily recognize so it can correctly orient the 3-D model. Get bored with the Angelina Jolie skin? Fick your eyes to the side to cycle forward to the Cindy Crawford skin in mid-stroke!

        Holy shit, I think I need to patent that...

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by mrrudge ( 1120279 )
          Unfortunately by using Cindy Crawford as an example you've shown your age, and by the time this reaches the consumer you'll be using it to magically replace the petunia in your garden that the cat from next door ate. At least, I think it lives next door, I've seen it around there and, oh, no, that one has black feet. Or is it the one from up the road that has, what, Cindy who ?
          • Eh, I was gonna type Heidi Klum instead but I couldn't remember how to spell it (not even sure if that one's right).

            Crawford's prime was a bit before my time, but yet timeless :)

        • by Virak ( 897071 )

          Yeah, and then you get the bright idea to give it gigantic breasts, reach over slowly and with excitement to enjoy your newfound toys, and find only disappointment and the disconcerting appearance of your hands buried halfway into another person (unless you happen to like that sort of thing, of course).

          • Yeah, it'd have to either be limited to the body type of your sex-bot model (perhaps with modular parts, so you can have a couple of boob sizes for it and just put on whichever type you feel like that day) or the bot would have to be able to expand/contract in some places, which is probably not practical if you want to make it feel at all skin-like.

      • Just imagine that chick watching your portfolio performance while she tags you.

    • I actually saw a show that featured this technology earlier today. I think it was on the Science Channel or Discovery Channel, wasn't really paying attention. Attention Deficit FTL.

      Anyway, I got the impression that the lens would communicate via radio frequency and presumably get its power the same way. They didn't really go into much technical detail on that, so I may be assuming too much. Tech like this would be beyond cool if they get it to work, but honestly I was left with the impression that its no
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @12:56PM (#29275267)

    Can I just get a contact lens with cross-hairs in it?

    Why yes. I do play Quake III Arena often. Why do you ask?

    • by Yvan256 ( 722131 )

      You mean like this []?

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Yes, probably at WalMart. They have snake-eyes and all sorts of halloweenish contact lenses, and as they don't correct vision you don't need a prescription. I'm thinking of getting either a pair of snake eyes, or a pair with red irises for Halloween. They cost about thirty bucks or so.

  • Small steps. (Score:2, Insightful)

    I'd be happy just to have a usable interface in a pair of normal glasses (non-correcting).
    • Agreed; something like the Myvu Crystal with decent resolution (640 lines is NOT enough for everyone; double it and I'll buy it tomorrow) should be possible and wouldn't require a prescription (or eyedrops). For extra fun, add a couple of accelerometers for head-tracking and you can use the old X-windows "slide the viewport around" trick. Add a small bluetooth keyboard, and you've got a mini-office anywhere you've got a chair.

    • I'd be happy just to have a usable interface in a pair of normal glasses (non-correcting).

      I'd be happy just to have the usable interface ;)

    • I'd be happy just to have a usable interface in a pair of normal glasses (non-correcting).

      Ditto. I have extreme eye contact phobia and the thought of contacts gives me the willies with a touch of the heebie-jeebies. But I can totally dig standard glasses.

  • by d474 ( 695126 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:01PM (#29275325)
    Another inevitable function of this contact lens is recording video. Everything you see passes through this lens, so you will be able to record everything you see (except, of course, for dreams and hallucinations).

    It would be like Tivo for your life.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Chyeld ( 713439 )

      With respect, I doubt that'll be in the 'near' future for these. The problem with recording video is that you actually have to capture the photons to do that. Capture the photons on the recording media, and they are no longer available for the eye to 'see'. The non-contact versions of 'eye mounted' HUDs that I've seen get around this by using a complex setup to split the image into two, but from what I understand of that, it'd be practically impossible to use the same method for a contact.

      I suppose another

      • Divert 10% of the incoming light to a recorder, and the wearer will never notice. Put the sensors on the outside face of some of the opaque lens components. Or put them around the periphery. There's no way you're going to do AR without a way to detect and analyze the "R" that you're "A"ing, anyhow.

        • by d474 ( 695126 )
          Exactly. In fact, diverting a percentage of the incoming light would serve as a form of adaptive sunglasses.
      • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:28PM (#29275657)
        Further, studies show that the eye's point-of-focus jerks all over the place. Your gaze is rarely centered in just one spot in a scene. Then there's the question of (depth-of-field) focus...
        • Depth-of-focus issues aside... Just capture the video stream in all its jittery glory, at a nice, high frame rate, and let a computer post-process that data to stabilize the image. I've seen examples of this after-the-fact process, in addition to the usual realtime image stabilization that many cameras feature.
      • by d474 ( 695126 )

        With respect, I doubt that'll be in the 'near' future for these. The problem with recording video is that you actually have to capture the photons to do that. Capture the photons on the recording media, and they are no longer available for the eye to 'see'.

        Interesting objection, but easy to overcome. You do realize that the lens also will also have the ability to project light into the eye, right? So why not just project the capture back into the eye? In fact, this could be a feature. The user would hav

      • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:00PM (#29276051) Homepage

        Contact lenses cover more than the pupil. A recording device located over the iris would not interfere with vision.

        • by Chyeld ( 713439 )

          Good point, I guess my only remaining objection would be bandwidth issues with getting the info from the eye to you 'image processing' unit. Given these contacts aren't going to be running AA's in them, and given that this is going to be a two way communication, it might be more advisable to do the 'image collection' someplace else.

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        You can see through a screen door, can't you? The same would apply. Although for recording, I think glasses (sunglasses) would be better.

    • They already have this [] but it doesn't get very good reviews.
    • Your parole officer would like that!

  • My eyes get tired now from looking intently at a screen for hours each day, imagine the new ailments that can arise from such an invention! This reminds me of a Mad Magazine parody of the Six Million Dollar Man, where his targeting crosshairs blocked what he was looking at, begging the question - how do you turn it off? On the upside, you could browse the internet, send messages, play games and watch movies in perfect privacy. It could allow more taboo segments of the entertainment industry a legitimate p
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:15PM (#29275471)
    The girl (or boy) with kaleidoscope eyes.
  • I just want an added twinkle to my eye... maybe something for my teeth as well.

  • Why aug? (Score:3, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:26PM (#29275623)
    Why go for an augmented reality when you can have a demented reality?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by geekoid ( 135745 )

      trust me, most of augmented reality will be demented.

    • Re:Why aug? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by StreetStealth ( 980200 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:07PM (#29276157) Journal

      I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf mutes!

    • Why go for an augmented reality when you can have a demented reality?

      Exactly what I have always thought! Virtual reality tech would be best employed helping me to function in "the real world", while eliminating much of the harsh unpleasantness and petty annoyances entailed by said reality. It might be tempting, for example, to have my VR contacts and earplugs filter out people I don't like (e.g. the PHB), but such an "ignore list" could lead to collision problems, not to mention losing my job. However, it would definitely be more fun if I could see the PHB as Donald Duck or

    • But you already have that! It's called "TV"!
      And I hear it's quite popular too!

    • I know you meant it as a joke but if you haven't read rainbow's end you should. The virtual overlays such as Pratchett's discworld were pretty demented.
  • Stories like this remind me of Fred and Barney looking at the Grand Canyon, and it's just a tiny stream. Fred comments, "They say it'll be a big ditch some day." Yes, it's Cynical Day here at the Desperation Compound.
  • by clt829 ( 820534 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @01:33PM (#29275743)
    They've put a single LED in a contact lens, so now we have Augmented Reality.
  • Let me know when I can get replacement lenses (IOL) with all this and more in it.

    IOL: []

    Video: []

  • by Mishotaki ( 957104 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:05PM (#29276111)

    I really can't wait for the first hacker who manages to hack someone else's lens to output an extremely bright light to the wearer...

    so that he has to remove those lens, because the natural reflex of closing the eye is totally useless!

    When you're arrested by the cops: "my lenses were hacked! i really didn't see that stop sign!"

    Or: "cause of death: blinded by his lenses while driving"

    Such an interesting future is coming towards us!

  • Ghost in the Shell (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:13PM (#29276265)
    I keep seeing people go on and on about Torchwood doing this, but this has always been a part of Ghost in the Shell, hopefully reality doesn't end up like GiTS because the "cyberbrains" make Win 95 seem secure.
    • Actually I much prefer the GiTS vision of the future over any other that I'v seen. I look forward to the day when I can no longer tell where my brain ends and the computer begins. Maybe when everyone can have their bodies enhanced in what ever way you want them to be then people can truly be judged by the content of their character.

  • Cybernetic Eyes (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @02:14PM (#29276279)

    Forget a contact on my eye - replace the whole eyeball. Give me low light, infrared, light reduction, bloom compensation, microscope and telescope functions, facial recognition, recording, playback, computer display link, etc.

    Pretty much everyone needs glasses by 40 anyway, why not just get new eyes when you're 18?

    I know we're a long way off from being able to plug a camera directly into the optic nerve, but when that day comes I'm up for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ... to a whole new level.


    I deeply fear an Elmo belief circle.

  • Oddly enough, I just wrote a fairly lengthy review of Rainbows End [] over on Submitted it to Slashdot; it's still pending. (I'm not optimistic, but it was worth a try.) I talk some about the book, and about how Vernor Vinge's ideas for "the book of the future" have been evolving and changing since True Names.

    It'll be fascinating if this technology actually starts to show up in real life.

  • Further challenges (Score:4, Informative)

    by dewarrn1 ( 985887 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @03:15PM (#29277065)
    I love the idea, but having conducted many eye-tracking sessions I think that there are a number of basic challenges that the contact-lens implementation would need to overcome. First, contacts drift all over the cornea. It's really quite disconcerting to watch, especially when you've got obvious markers like vanity-coloring for irises. Station-keeping over the pupil would require technology that's not mentioned here. Alternatively, you might monitor the portion of the contact that's positioned over the pupil at any given moment using photocells on the underside to catch light reflected off the retina, but then you'll need a bigger display and use up valuable real estate. Second, similarly and perhaps even more importantly, orientation maintenance. If there was a good way for contact orientation to be maintained, bifocal contact lenses would be a reality already. Instead you encounter bizarre stopgaps like a reading lens in one eye and a distance lens in the other. Third, eyes are a fairly disgusting environment. Crud on regular contacts doesn't seem to impede vision, but the delicate electronics in a device like this might object to working in a wet, salty, bacteria-ridden setting unless very carefully insulated. Nothing bad about reaching for the dream, but I'll take a pair of prescription Virtual Light-style glasses while we're waiting.
    • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )

      If there was a good way for contact orientation to be maintained, bifocal contact lenses would be a reality already.

      This isn't something I know much about, but googling seems to indicate that bifocal contact lenses do in fact exist: [] []

  • by eh2o ( 471262 )

    1 LED embedded in a contact lens. VGA resolution is now only 5 orders of magnitude away. Better start coding those augmented reality apps!

  • by dlevitan ( 132062 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2009 @05:36PM (#29278617)

    One problem with this is that contact lenses float on your eye and are not stationary. This is a serious problem, because to keep a constant orientation, you'll either need to constantly rotate any light emitters to stay in the same place (probably not possible), or weight the contact lens as is currently done with astigmatic lenses (not a great solution).

    Apart from this, contact lenses tear, break, get lost, etc... At the moment, my soft lenses cost $5 apiece. If one tears, gets lost, or something else equally destructive, it's not a problem. If the same lens cost $1000, that would be a much bigger problem. And I'm not sure there's a good solution to this. If you make the lenses soft, they'll degrade quickly (as current soft lenses do). If you make them hard, then they will fall, get scratched, and the like over the long term.

  • Although putting a single LED into a contact lens is already an achievement, it's not the hard part. As the article points out: power and focusing are major problems, with no plausible solution in sight.

    The people to whom the accolades should go are those who finally manage to put it all together, not the people who put together a tiny bit of the technology.

    The idea itself, of course, is nearly as old as contact lenses and has appeared in many science fiction stories.

  • A bit off-topic, but has science fiction dealt with such things as augmented reality in the eye? It just occurred to me that it could be interesting to explore the possibilities of people living in an augmented world where the most important stuff cannot be seen (like other people who might not be present and just "augmented", like holograms).

    Although that would probably turn into just another dystopia future thingie, cause when you think about it, what are you going to do with a new tech as the basis of

  • I'm not even worried about the contact lens floating - how are you going to cable this? It needs power, and unless someone simultaneously invents a saline based generator you'll need to connect it somewhere.

    I'll be really impressed if they solve that, so far it's not even interesting..

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner