I wrote an article a while back about the pioneering developments Google were making to turn man into Borg with their ‘Augmented Reality Eyewear’. The whole concept would change the way we use technology and extend the boundaries of the way we interact, shifting the way we perceive reality. Cutting edge right? Well could Google’s Augmented Reality Eyewear have been surpassed before it’s even hit the market?
Imagine instant access to the latest market segment information at a meeting, or seeing the fourth quarter earnings for a company in (literally) the blink of an eye. Let’s go a step further, what if we were to say it was possible to give you bionic sight, that you could see labels over people’s heads when you walked into a room, job tittles, contact details, relationship status and all this without and detonable attachments or visors to you persons.
What you are imagining is becoming scarily close to a reality, it may sound like science fiction it is in the process of becoming applied science. Scientists at the University of Washington are working on Bluetooth solar powered contact lenses with semitransparent LEDs embedded onto the lens. This technology could be applied in countless ways, from health monitoring to text translation right in front of the wearer’s eyes.
“Assisted Living Contact Lens” would project information before the user. Though the concept isn’t that different to that of Googles Augmented Reality Eyewear, the technology involved is more advanced, allowing wearers experience augmented reality right through their eyes. For the more fashion conscious this could provide a more than adequate alternative to the targeting scanner like design of Google’s controversial HUD eyewear. Instead it would be replaced with a ‘Terminator’ glowing eye equivalent.
Talking about his research, Professor Babak Amir Parviz provided this insight: “These lenses don’t need to be very complex to be useful. Even a lens with a single pixel could aid people with impaired hearing or be incorporated as an indicator into computer games. With more colours and resolution, the repertoire could be expanded to include displaying text, translating speech into captions in real time, or offering visual cues from a navigation system. With basic image processing and Internet access, a contact-lens display could unlock whole new worlds of visual information, unfettered by the constraints of a physical display.”
The lens that Parviz has been working on utilizes sensors and wireless technology and is still in its nascent stages but is definitely promising. In today’s context, a Smart Lens sounds more convenient than creepy. Current trends in technology and popular culture provide emerging demands for constant connection to the increasingly blurred boundaries between natural and artificial. Developments such as 4G becoming the new standard in mobile phone networks will provide even more weight to these upcoming bionic devices. While you’ve probably seen lots of 4G repartees from the mobile providers, it’s not very widely available in most phones. However, both Verizon and the EU intend to do away with 3G entirely by 2013, which will essentially bring broadband-level speeds to wireless devices on mobile networks. It will bring ‘Worldwide WiFi’ capabilities to anyone with a 4G data plan. This means future contraptions will be able to quickly connect you to the hub of the information high way. If smart lenses were compatible with these networks, you could see all this information right before your very eyes.
What implications bionic devices will have on the world I couldn’t tell you? I really wonder if we really approaching the advancement turning us ‘From man to Borg’? Either way when it comes to Smart Lens’s I think it is not just about doing old things in new ways, it is about doing new things. They are replacing our conventional ways of interacting with technology and that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing, the future.