A Terminator-style contact-lens display

November 23, 2011

Single-pixel wireless contact lens display (credit: University of Washington/Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering)

Bringing us a step closer to a Terminator-style augmented-reality display, University of Washington engineers have constructed an experimental contact lens with a single-pixel embedded light-emitting diode (LED) and tested it in a rabbit.

The LED lights up when it receives energy from a remote radio frequency transmission, picked up by an antenna around the edge and collected via a silicon power harvesting and radio integrated circuit.

But the ultimate future concept would be to display multipixel data — from a cell phone, for example, no eyeglasses required. Here’s how the engineers say it will work:

Future concept for contact-lens information display (Credit: University of Washington/Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering)

A light emitting diode (LED) chip (1) with 100 pixels projects virtual images (6, b). Power-harvesting/control circuitry (2) uses wireless power from an external source, picked up by an antenna (3), an connects (4) to the LED. Emitted light is reimaged using planar Fresnel lenses (c).

“In the future, contact lens systems may receive data from external platforms (e.g., mobile phones) and provide
real-time notification of important events,” the engineers say. “As contact lens-based biosensors advance, they may alert the wearer of physiological anomalies, such as irregular glucose or lactate levels. With more colors and increased resolution, contact lenses may display text, be used with gaming devices, or offer cues from navigation systems.

“Although high resolution, full-color, stand-alone contact lens displays might be many years away, the technological demonstrations to date depict a clear path containing a number of useful intermediate devices that can be feasibly produced in the near to medium future.”

Ref.: A R Lingley et al., A single-pixel wireless contact lens display, Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, 2011 [doi:10.1088/0960-1317/21/12/125014] (free access until Dec. 21)