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Augmented reality takes another step closer thanks to new contact lens display technology

Researchers at Ghent University reveal LCD-based contact lens displays project. Is augmented reality now closer than you think?
December 11, 2012

I’m sure you’ve heard of Google’s augmented reality concept Project Glass, didn’t you? Well the The Centre of Microsystems Technology has announced that they intend to push the notion even further with their latest announcement. The Ghent University-based team recently declared that they have developed a spherically curved LCD display which can be imbedded into contact lenses, the implication being that in future we could all be steaming films directly on to our eyeballs.

Whilst contact lens displays aren’t an entirely new technology, researchers at the University of Washington tested LED based lenses on rabbits back in 2011, the real breakthrough made here is the use of LCD displays. Previous LED-based displays meant that the content which could be displayed was limited to only a few small pixels located in the middle of the lens, however the ground breaking LCD-based technology allows for the use of pixels across the whole surface.  This is possible thanks to some very cleaver development ideas using thin conductive polymer films integrated into a smooth spherical cell.

Along with the announcement the researches also showed off a prototype which demonstrates a dollar sign being displayed on the curved lens. So far the display is limited to only fairly simple patterns and unfortunately it seems that the image cannot be seen by the wearer at this stage.

But like all new technologies in their infancy things are only going to improve, and as stated by Prof. Herbert De Smet who supervises the research:

“Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working towards real applications, possibly available in only a few years time.”

The research team already has aspirations for the device’s future, from changing the color of an iris at will to potential uses in Ophthalmology, such as controlling the light received by a damaged iris.  One researcher even mentioned the possibility of “fully autonomous electronic contact lenses” as well as heads-up-displays. There’s certainly some great potential here for both medical science and some truly amazing consumer gadgets.