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Bionic Eyesight Coming via Contact Lenses

February 13th, 2010

When I first read about this I thought it was some kind of hoax article, but it’s true – Bionic eyesight via contact lenses with specialized circuits and LEDs are now being tested in animals and may be ready for humans soon:  Read the original article at Spectrum IEEE and see the details of the Lens here.

Babak Parviz of the University of Washington writes:

These visions (if I may) might seem far-fetched, but a contact lens with simple built-in electronics is already within reach; in fact, my students and I are already producing such devices in small numbers in my laboratory at the University of Washington, in Seattle …

In this lens concept, an antenna at the periphery collects incoming RF energy from a separate portable transmitter. Power-conversion circuitry provides DC power to other parts of the system and sends instructions to the display control circuit. The display, at the center, might consist of LEDs, which would turn on and off, or LCD-like elements, whose transparency would be modulated by the control circuit. An energy-storage module, perhaps a large capacitor, is connected to a solar cell, which could provide a boost to the lens. A biosensor samples the surface of the cornea, performs an analysis, and provides data to the telecommunication module to transmit to an external computer.

As a contact lens wearer I can only say “Sign me up!” because this would be amazing and probably not even uncomfortable.   Although these initial prototypes don’t yet do the most amazing things such as “eagle eye” quality vision, that technical leap should happen as soon as the innovative energy and money start flowing to a project that may be another step in the direction of human/technological convergence.   Cochlear implants, which allow some deaf folks to hear, are a great example of a mainstream technology that is even more “invasive” than the contact lenses would be.

Technology Report CES 2011 coverage begins November 2010.

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