Bionic Eye gives Vison of the Future

University of Washington's bionic eyeThe University of Washington announced a breakthrough in the form of "electronic" contact lenses that makes the notion of a bionic man a significant step closer. They have managed to embed miniature electronic circuitry, including LEDs and an antenna, into a contact lens; thereby paving the way for the inclusion of head-up displays etc. in this unobtrusive medium.

Assistant Professor Babak Parviz and his team at the University of Washington have overcome crucial manufacturing hurdles in being able to create these bionic contact lenses and have even tested them on rabbits without noticeable discomfort.

Clearly, with only a few LEDs and a little circuitry, this is just a very early development, but still the ramifications are truly stunning. In time, the lens could display all kinds of data and images enabling the wearer to browse the web, receive messages, see context sensitive information or ultimately engage in augmented reality. Although still some years off, this is just what is required for wearable electronics in that it provides a display in a package that's barely noticeable.

Parviz points out that there's space on the edge of the contact lens that can be used for peripheral electronics thereby enabling more complete systems to be integrated. Of course, there's still the issue of power supply but Parviz says they're thinking in terms of a combination of radio-frequency power and solar cells on the lens.

The next step for Parviz and his team is to try to pair microlenses to each pixel such that the viewer will see a focused image floating in mid-air.