Contact lenses could be the future of smart tech, enabling wearers to see a whole host of information come up in their direct sight.
Scleral lenses, which cover more of the white of the eye than traditional contact lenses, are being developed with tiny microLED displays, as well as smart sensors and solid-state batteries. The result is a lens that delivers information to the wearer before their eyes.
Some examples given for how this technology could be of benefit were music performers seeing their notation appear and scroll as they play, or for anyone giving a speech to have their script come up wherever they look. It could even revolutionise sport, with athletes seeing their distances, speed or biometrics returned to them in real time.
One company behind the development of smart contact lenses is San Francisco’s Mojo. The company hasn’t just run some tests to check the feasibility, but actually developed working smart lenses that have been worn. The next step is additional internal testing before the product can be rolled out much wider.
One main challenge is developing lenses thin enough to be worn comfortably, but with enough battery power to last the whole day. Mojo is working to overcome the challenge by developing lenses that take information at intervals, rather than continuously.
As well as the general benefits that smart lenses could offer, there are a host of healthcare applications too, which could revolutionise how people with certain conditions are diagnosed or treated.
Instructor of optometric science at Columbia University, Rebecca Rojas, told the BBC that smart lenses could allow people with diabetes or glaucoma to “self-monitor and track intra-ocular pressure, or glucose.”
She added that the lenses may even provide extended-release drug-delivery options, which is beneficial in diagnosis and treatment plans.
“It’s exciting to see how far technology has come,” she said, “and the potential it offers to improve patients’ lives.”