High-tech Terminator vision may be possible with the bionic lens
Contact lenses with Terminator vision
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
An electronic contact lens has been developed that will enable maps and videos to be beamed before the wearer’s eyes.
The bionic lens has microscopic circuits fixed to a flexible plastic. The scientists who created the device say the lenses could eventually provide computer-aided vision similar to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robotic character in the Terminator films.
Drivers and pilots would have essential information – their speed and direction, for example – superimposed in front of their eyes, in a massive advance on the kind of “wearable displays” now available, which are spectacles that have images displayed on the lenses.
A prototype of the lens has been built, with light-emitting diodes – LEDs – embedded in it to flash up information. Its built-in antenna will use wireless technology, similar to that used in the home, to beam information to the lens, allowing wearers to surf the internet without taking their eyes off the world around them.
Babak Parviz, the electrical engineer behind the project at the University of Washington, said: “We have demonstrated some of the key technologies required to make a sophisticated functional contact lens. We hope to hook up a wireless link… for updating images and reporting the state of the lens.”
Microscopic electrical circuits link up the LEDs and the antenna harvests energy from radio waves to power the lens. Holes which are each 1,000 times thinner than a human hair are etched on to the lens.
Electronic components are attached by floating them across the lens surface, where capillary forces suck each one into the right-sized hole. The eye relies on only a small amount of light entering the pupil at a time, so wearers will still be able to see through the lens, while the circuitry is built around the edge.
Mr Parviz plans more sophisticated components to show detailed pictures, and it is possible to include a zoom function. The lenses have been tried on animals but there will be tough safety tests before the technology is developed for people.
Dr Chris Baber, a reader in interactive technology at Birmingham University, said: “The key is how they fit on to a person and ensuring they provide the right information at the right time.”
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