We’ve seen it thousands of times in movies; massive amounts of information unspooling right before someone’s eyes, without the need for any type of monitor. Now, fiction is closer to becoming fact as a working model of electronic contact lenses proves to be successful with rabbits.
The current incarnation of the lens isn’t something that would excite anyone with those Hollywood movies in mind because the device only displays one pixel, but it’s the concept behind that one pixel that’s the real attention-getter; because where one pixel can go, others can follow. According to PopSci, Professor Babak Parviz says the next step is to “incorporate some predetermined text in the contact lens.”
However, in addition to going beyond one pixel, there are a few other hurdles to overcome. The first problem is power. The current version of the contact lens draws energy from an external source using an antenna that has a range of one meter in free space and only two centimeters when the lens is placed on the eye. The other issue concerns the eye itself. The minimal focal distance of the human eye is a few centimeters so information that would be displayed on a contact lens would be blurry. To take care of this particular problem, researchers used thin Fresnel lenses to magnify the display. There’s no information at this time on if the process will be refined at some point or how exactly a magnified display might affect vision when not reading text on a contact lens.
When it comes to limitless amounts of data being streamed directly to the eye, the future is closer but it still has some traveling to do before it gets here.
As an optical designer, I am more than somewhat puzzled by the description given here. It is an axiom of geometrical optics that an object close to the aperture stop of a lens – which here is the pupil of the eye – cannot be imaged at the focal surface of the normally operating lens – ie: viewing objects between (say) half a metre and infinity distant from the eye.
Here the object is only a few millimetres from the pupil. The presence of Fresnel lenses at the object position would have no useful effect whatever – in fact they would seriously detract from normal vision.
Looking at this and all I can think about is the MI 4 Movie starring Tom Cruz! Great Read though!