AR lens in a rabbit's eye. (Via Institute of Physics)
Augmented Reality will be a pervasive part of our lives in days to come. How it will be delivered is up in the air. The University of Washington in Seattle is taking it straight to the concealed level with a set of contact lenses.
The current prototype only displays one pixel, but how it lights up that transparent sapphire square is the real technology. Within the Fresnel lens is a 5 meter long antenna tuned to the gigahertz band, the controller circuit, and insulation layers. The antenna not only receives the signal to light up the pixel, but also delivers the power for the system. The source transmitter was within 1 meter of the lens during the test. Unfortunately, all the tests were done on scientific beasts of burden, sedated rabbits in this case.
Project team leader Babak Praviz, after a 40 minute long test, stated, "We have demonstrated the operation of a contact lens display powered by a remote radiofrequency transmitter in free space and on a live rabbit... This verifies that antennas, radio chips, control circuitry, and micrometre-scale light sources can be integrated into a contact lens and operated on live eyes [with no adverse effects on the eye.]"
Although the lens only displays one pixel, the researchers believe that even this system could be used for "gaming, training, or giving warnings to the hearing impaired." The team is not stopping here. Their next step is to increase the pixel density.
As much as I want augmented reality, I would not want to use contact lenses. Why not try the system on a set of old-fashioned spectacles? Being able to remove them easily when necessary is the key. Plus, they will not slide underneath an eyeball.
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