How Contact Lens Displays Work

The Future of Contact Lens Displays

Will future generations take these for granted as well?
Will future generations take these for granted as well?

So what does the future hold for contact lens displays? For starters, expect more than one pixel and pixels you can actually see. Remember, the single pixel in Parviz's prototype would appear to the wearer -- human or otherwise -- as a blur.

See, the human eye can't focus on objects closer than 4 inches (10 centimeters) from the surface of the cornea [source: Parviz]. So Parviz hopes to incorporate even smaller microlenses, positioned in the lens between the eye and the pixel, which would make the clear pixel appear to float about half a meter away.

Parviz also hopes to use passive lenses, as these would require less energy than the current active lenses require. Consider the prototype worn by the rabbit. Outside energy was required to light that single blue pixel. But light constantly enters the eye as we perceive the world around us -- light that could be used in single- or multipixel contact displays. You don't need a flashlight to read a book or an Amazon Kindle on a sunny day, do you? The same principle applies here.

From here, it's easy to imagine a future in which contact lens displays use an augmented reality experience to layer our world with all of the informational, entertaining distractions that a smartphone provides today. Want to catch the latest sports scores while appearing to watch your daughter's dance recital? Done. Puzzled by a familiar-looking stranger on the train? With a little facial recognition software and a nod-activated Web search, you're just seconds away from a positive ID.

With the ability to monitor biomarkers on the surface of your eye, lenses of the future may supply a steady stream of up-to-the-second health data. If you find yourself in a hospital emergency room, a quick scan of your contacts will tell emergency responders all they need to know.

But enough about health monitoring. What will TV be like? The U.S. company Innovega predicts that within a few years contact lenses will work in congress with our television sets to focus 3-D screens directly into our eyes.

Still other futurists point to the reality-warping possibilities that contact lens displays offer. In accessing the technology awaiting us in 2030, futurologist Ian Pearson predicts an age in which hotel guests will use augmented reality to change the appearance of their sex partners, virtually redecorate the room and allow them to enter a lucid dreaming state.

That flashing blue light you're seeing? That's your contact lenses telling you that this is all a dream -- and it's time to dream something even better.