It's long been a dream of technology companies, the idea of a smart contact lens. With augmented reality tech like Microsoft's HoloLens and the Magic Leap, where people wear goggles or glasses to see a virtual overlay on the real world, contact lenses would be the next step where the bulkiness of goggles would be a thing of the past.
Earlier this year Sony's patent for a type of smart contact lens was made public and, while it won't have the capabilities to let you see digital forms IRL, are a first step in this direction. The patent filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was for lenses that can take photos and video and play back what's been captured.
According to the patent, which website Sony Alpha Rumors reported on first back in April, the lens would have "a lens unit configured to be worn on an eyeball; an image pickup unit configured to capture an image of a subject, the image pickup unit being provided in the lens unit; and an image pickup control unit configured to control the image pickup unit."
The contact lens would also be able to transmit the captured image or video to an external unit, a phone or laptop. Images could be recorded by blinking the eye which uses a sensor to detect and distinguish the blink from just standard blinking. The lens would also be able to zoom, focus and change the aperture.
Sony's patent for their smart lenses
The patent follows both Google and Samsung looking into development of a smart contact lens. Samsung's patent was similar to Sony's in that it had a camera and sensors to detect movement/blinking, but theirs also features a display.
Google are working on two different smart contact lenses, both more health-based than just being used as a camera or overlay display. One was a lens fitted with sensors to record and monitor glucose levels in people with diabetes. The other was being developed for people with hyperopia, or far-sightedness and centered on an autofocus lens. However the latter has recently hit some problems with some clinical trials that were upcoming now facing delays.
As for Sony's smart contact lens, although the patent was made public earlier this year, the company filed it back in 2014. So it seems they've been working on the lens for a few years, although there's no sign yet of when they'll be ready for the public. Still it points to an interesting, if slightly scary, future. Which, hopefully, won't end up looking anything like this.
For further insight into how our possible smart contact lens AR future might look, check out the short sci-fi film Sight, below, by Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo.