Contact lens to become displays

CNC report from Brussels
Added On January 12, 2013

While Google's Project Glass is to release its pioneering augmented reality head-mounted display in a smartphone-like format, a group of scientists from Belgium have already gone further in the field.

They have recently launched a similar project, but instead of using the same prototype as Project Glass, they display information on a pair of LCD contact lenses.

Let's take a look.

STANDUP: BAI YU, CNC Correspondent:
"Have you ever imagined that in the near future, when your friends are sending some short messages to you, they will be displayed directly in your contact lens? Here in Belgium, the scientists from Ghent University are making this idea into reality."

Jelle De Smet is working on the project with Interuniversity Microelectronics Center (IMEC). He explained how it is functioned.

SOUNDBITE: JELLE DE SMET, Researcher of Ghent University
"So the basic idea would be to integrate a display onto the lens, which allows to receive additional information about our surroundings like for instance information about shops you are looking at, or monuments you are looking at or even for instance having turn by turn directions, if you do not know where to go and this lens could have an additional layer on top of your normal view which will then show all of the information and all these directions."

LED-based contact lens displays are limited to a few small pixels, while IMEC'S LCD-based technology permits the use of the entire display surface.

However, this technology requires a new kind of polymer rather than traditional hard screen.

"This lens has a cavity inside which is filled with liquid crystal but the big challenge was that here the solid needed to be spherically which is different from the normal display which is just flat and hard. Here, we need to use flexible polymer with which we mold with a spherical shift which could then be inbred in a contact lens. So, what happens is that we supplied energy to certain parts of this liquid crystal and then they realigned, they switched their position and this mix that the light going through into the lens is being absorb more or less. So, what is happening is that indeed some areas absorb more lights and less lights and this creates this display effect. (Can you guess how many pixels does this pair of contact lenses have right now?) So we still need patience before the spherical curved LCD display in contact lenses grows to wearable and touchable computers. There are still plenty of technical mountains to climb, such as eyeball-friendly material, micro solar cell in the polymer, antenna to receive signals etc, not to say a camera, a mic for video command or a loudspeaker."

And, Jelle said the technology is all for the needs of this fast-paced world.

"I think it supports our way we are going to lives right now. We are highly connected now, so we want to have information as much as possible and as soon as we are started at looking at things, we want to have information about this. And of course when this is directly projected onto normal view, this is a very high integration between the human body and the internet itself so we would need a kind of serve as a gateway to internet as well as being a place for information."