iOptik AR Contacts on the Way from Innovega

February 3, 2014

Never mind the glasses, augmented reality contacts are (almost) here! Can implants be far behind? The Daily Mail’s site Mail Online reports on “The Contact Lenses that Could Do Away with TV Screens: System that Projects Images onto the Eyeball to Be Unveiled Next Week.” Actually, there are glasses involved in the iOptik system, but they’re just the projection screens for the contacts (and look much more normal than Google Glass.) The article includes a two-and-a-half-minute video that shows us what it’s all about. I officially want one (though I know such HUD devices are not for everyone). Unfortunately the folks at Innovega, makers of iOptik, have yet to disclose how much their system will cost.

Reporter Ellie Zolfagharifard explains how the system works:

“The system can work with smartphones and portable game devices to deliver video – or switch to a translucent ‘augmented reality’ view, where computer information is layered over the world we know it.

‘Whatever runs on your smartphone would run on your eyewear,’ Innovega chief Stephen Willey said in an interview with CNET. ‘At full HD. Whether it’s a window or immersive.’ Crucially, the device can be worn while moving around in a similar way to Google Glass.

Innovega customised the standard contact lens manufacturing process with a unique filter to make the contact lenses. ‘All the usual optics in the eyewear are taken away and there is a sub-millimeter lens right in the centre,’ Mr Willey told CNET. ‘The outside of the lens is shaped to your prescription if you need one and the very centre of the lens is a bump that allows you to see incredibly well half an inch from your eye.’ An optical filter also directs the light. ‘Light coming from outside the world is shunted to your normal prescription. Light from that very near display goes through the center of the lens, the optical filter,’ Mr Willey said.”

For a visual explanation, check out the diagram at Innovega’s site. The company may choose to license the tech to other vendors, who could add features like audio and motion control, or it might market the device itself. Founded in 2008, Innovega is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington.

Zolfagharifard also notes that related developments are afoot elsewhere. For example, scientists in South Korea have created soft contacts fitted with LEDs that could be programmed to take pictures. Meanwhile, Microsoft and the University of Washington have been collaborating on a similar project; in 2012, they revealed a contact lens that can receive radio signals and transmit them to the brain through the optical nerves. I know, I know—there could be a lot of downsides with these developments. Right now, though, I’m just excited about the (positive) possibilities.

Cynthia Murrell, February 03, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext


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