Introducing New Smart Wearable Gear, Sci-Fi Contact Lenses of the Future

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Would you like to be able to put in contact lenses to see in the dark, augment reality and record what you see or be alerted when your blood sugar is getting too low? Although it sounds like science fiction, advances in technology have allowed companies to test the feasibility of these concepts and more by place microLED sensors and displays the size of a grain of sand on contact lenses.

“In the short term, it looks like a futuristic idea,” Ana Belén Cisneros del Río, vice-dean of the College of Opticians-Optometrists of the Spanish region of Castilla y León, of the Mojo Vision project said El País. “But 20 years ago, we couldn’t even imagine many of the technological advances we have today.”

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Augmented reality contact lenses that correct your vision

Since 2015, the American startup Mojo Vision is just one company that has refined various prototypes. One of them involves augmented reality glasses that would allow the wearer to consult a panoply of information as well as correct vision. Just as you can use your smartphone or watch to monitor your pace while running or guide you through an airport, lenses would do the same without having to take your eyes off what’s in front of you.

Mojo vision is not the only company with an ambitious vision for the future of this technology, Magic Leap is also work on AR contact lens technology. However, CEO Peggy Johnson don’t think they will be on the market anytime soon. Efforts are also being made to install cameras in the lenses, such as a project Samsung is working on, with the added ability to project images into the user’s eye.

The Korean tech powerhouse has filed a patent for its wearable smart eye gear. Sony also has for its lenses that can record video. Other companies are looking to improve the wearer’s view by allowing them to zoom in and out simply in the blink of an eye, which would also power the equipment. In addition, research is developing lenses that give people night vision, the latter two would be useful for military applications.

Health applications of smart contact lenses

Health technology has driven an ever-increasing level of investment, doubling from year to year. Smart contact lenses could play an important role in the future of monitor people’s health and even treat illnesses.

“Presence of biomarkers in tear fluid will lead to diagnostic contact lenses”, said Cisneros. “[These] will help detect and treat systemic and ocular diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and dry eye syndrome.

She predicts that the lenses will be able to monitor eye pressure to detect high blood pressure or stroke and look for the onset of glaucoma. They could also be used by diabetics to measure blood sugar with efforts by some to have the lenses change color to alert of changes in the user’s blood sugar. They might even monitor a patient’s reaction to a drug or surgery.

Another use for wearable smart glasses could be to deliver exact doses of medicine to treat illnesses. Cisneros thinks that “Medication-delivering contact lenses may offer more precise dosing than traditional eye drops.” The lenses would have the added benefit of “increasing the time a drug stays on the ocular surface and reducing side effects,” she said.

Problems smart contact lenses have to overcome

One of the handicaps of smart lenses is the technology currently cannot detect multiple chemical components in real time. When possible, it “will make contact lenses more powerful as biomedical tools”, according to the authors of a review published in the journal Advanced intelligent systems.

Another is that the lens components cannot be opaque or made of brittle and rigid materials. The former could obstruct the user’s vision and the latter damage the cornea or eyelid warns the review published in the journal Advanced materials technologies.

Daniel Elies, specialist in cornea, cataract and refractive surgery and medical director of the Institute of Ocular Microsurgery (IMO) Miranza Group in Madrid, told El País that he doesn’t think smart contact lenses will be available to the average Joe or part of everyday life in the near future. This is especially due to the high cost of the technology. But in the distant future he sees it’s doable that people will walk around with the wearable smart glasses loaded with a camera or an array of sensors.

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