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Computerized Contact Lens Used To Display Data

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11/22/2011 03:50 PM ET

Computerized Contact Lens - A computerized world just got smarter by using a contact lens that can be used to display data — such as emails and text messages — right in front of your eyes.

Their latest study was just a proof of concept: so far, the contact lens controls only a single pixel. But the authors say it shows that lenses with multiple pixels, perhaps hundreds — enough to stream messages — are possible. The lenses could also be used to overlay information on the real world or be used for navigation or gaming.

They could be synced with biosensors in the wearer’s body to display real-time updates of health data like blood-glucose levels.

How does it work? The scientists embedded a tiny LED with sapphire into the center of a plastic contact lens. They laid a circular antenna around the circumference of the lens and connected it with a circuit to the LED.

Using remote radio frequency transmission, the scientists could control the pixel.

The researchers then tested their creation by fitting the lenses into the eyes of anesthetized rabbits. The animals seemed to tolerate the lenses well for short periods, and the researchers didn’t see any abrasions, thermal burning or other potential negative effects, which bodes well for potential future testing in humans.

The computerized lens is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a hard plastic that doesn’t allow airflow to the eye, limiting usage to only a few minutes. Although the device could be powered from about three feet away when outside the eye, that distance narrowed to about an inch when the contact was in an actual eye. While a single pixel lighting up could potentially be useful as a warning, without the focusing micro-lenses, the rabbits only saw a blurry shadow.

Next, the researchers are hoping to improve the design of the antenna, incorporate the flat-lens technology into the computerized lens, make them more comfortable for the wearer, and increase the number of controllable pixels in the lenses.

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