Amazing and terrifying all at once, reality augmenting contact lenses are nearly real. Like, they're almost here. Circuits and antennas and LEDs in a contact lens, generating virtual imagery, Predator style. In your eyeball.
University of Washington Associate Professor of Biotechnology Babak A. Parviz describes the current state of the art, and it's pretty intense. They're trialling mockups of the lenses—which are sorta like older gas permeable lenses except with independently fabricated microcomponents like, biosensors and circuits—in bunnies' eyeballs right now, using lens with integrated metal circuits, with no problems for up to 20 minutes of wear. They're up to one LED for display now that's powered wirelessly by RF, but eventually, what's embedded in the lenses will include hundreds of LEDs to form images, and semi-transparent optoelectronics like antennas.
They've still got some challenges before they're embedded in everybody's eyeball, like the fact red LEDs contain toxic substances you don't want to shove in your eyeball. And figuring out whether to use an active display, like an array of LED pixels—which is the current main road forward—or a passive display using ambient light that would require less power. What's crazy is that for a truly vivid LED display, because of the way your eye focuses, they need to build another tiny array of lenses into the main lens so the virtual image would look visible a foot or so away. Or they use an array of microlasers. Power will come from RF or solar energy.
Bottom line says Parviz:
"All the basic technologies needed to build functional contact lenses are in place. We've tested our first few prototypes on animals, proving that the platform can be safe. What we need to do now is show all the subsystems working together, shrink some of the components even more, and extend the RF power harvesting to higher efficiencies and to distances greater than the few centimeters we have now