Screens and cameras in the eyes, and other promises of the glasses of the future

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There are augmented reality lenses that, in addition to correcting vision, have microLED screens the size of a grain of sand to view all kinds of information, from the tracks on a ski slope to the pace at which you are racing. This is the ambitious project that Mojo Vision is working on, a start from the United States that has been improving its prototypes since 2015. More and more companies and scientists are trying to come up with contact lens applications that sounded like science fiction decades ago, such as recording videos or the ability to diagnose and treat disease.

“In the short term, it sounds like a futuristic proposition, but 20 years ago we didn’t even imagine many of the technological advances we have now,” says Ana Belén Cisneros del Río, vice-dean of the College of opticians-optometrists of Castile. y León (COOCYL), in reference to the Mojo Vision project. Daniel Elies, specialist in cornea, cataract and refractive surgery and medical director of the IMO (Institute of Ocular Microsurgery) of the Miranza group in Madrid, does not believe that this type of contact lens can be put in place in the short term, “in particular because of cost problems”. ” .

Among the companies interested in making augmented reality glasses is Magic Leap. Sony, meanwhile, filed a patent a few years ago for eyelid-controlled video recording lenses, and Samsung for lenses with a camera and the ability to project images directly onto the camera. user’s eye. Meanwhile, some researchers are trying to create robotic lenses that can zoom in and out of objects (with a zoom effect) by opening and closing their eyes, and others are trying to make them see in the dark, which could be very useful in the military field.

Some manufacturers are using opaque, brittle components to operate smart lens electronics, according to a study published in the journal Scientists progress. Something that, as the authors point out, could block the user’s vision and damage the eye. In order for this type of contact lens to reach the market, in addition to overcoming multiple technical challenges and providing clear vision, it is essential that they pose no risk to eye health. “They remain a foreign body that we introduce into the eye,” explains Cisneros, who stresses the importance of researching the development of materials that are biocompatible with the corneal surface.

monitor health

If there’s one area where scientists and tech giants are trying to harness the potential of contact lenses, it’s healthcare. A review published in the journal Advanced materials technologies indicates that sensor lenses can be used to noninvasively monitor many diseases and conditions. “The presence of biomarkers in tears will lead to diagnostic contact lenses to help detect and treat systemic and ocular diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and dry eye syndrome,” Cisneros says.

Google tested a contact lens designed to measure glucose levels in tears.Google

Expert predicts lenses could monitor eye pressure, monitor glaucoma (a disease that damages the optic nerve in the eye) and even image the retinal vasculature for early detection of hypertension, stroke brain and diabetes. For people with the latter condition, lenses that can measure blood sugar can be helpful. Something that companies like Google and Microsoft have been working on for years. Other scientists have tried to go further and create ones that change color to alert on changes in glucose levels.

One of the limitations of these types of lenses is that they can usually only detect a single biomarker in the eye, such as glucose or lactic acid, according to the review published in the journal. Advanced intelligent systems. The authors believe that developing lenses that can detect multiple chemical compounds in real time would make them “more powerful as biomedical tools.”

Drug-delivering lenses

These lenses could also be useful for the treatment of certain ocular pathologies. In fact, several research points to their potential as wearable medical devices to analyze the eye’s response to certain medications and to evaluate surgical procedures. “Drug-delivering contact lenses could offer more precise dosing than traditional eye drops, increasing the residence time of a drug on the ocular surface and reducing side effects,” Cisneros adds.

It’s still too early to tell what innovations will be incorporated into contact lenses in the coming decades, but the possibilities are endless. Elies does not exclude that they will be equipped in the distant future with sensors or a camera capable of recording internal information of the eye and, thanks to a screening based on artificial intelligence, they can make diagnoses or send certain alerts. “Maybe they incorporate antisepsis systems to avoid infections or color changes to indicate possible deterioration of the same,” he concludes.

The Potential Privacy Risks of Smart Lenses

Wearing contact lenses that can record or monitor our eye movements can raise privacy concerns. Samuel Parra, a lawyer specializing in technology law, differentiates the impact of this type of lens on two different subjects: on the one hand, on who wears them and, on the other hand, the others, “that we see each other at through them”. .
According to European regulations, these lenses cannot collect any type of personal information about the wearer without their prior consent. For example, data about your behavior or tastes. “Their manufacturer or operator could not deploy a feature to know if the user who wears them, who knows that he is a 25-year-old man, looks more at blonde or brunette girls and, from there, deduces a preference,” says Parra. .
But the problem could arise with the privacy of others: “Should we have the right to know that we are dealing with a person wearing one of these lenses who may be carrying out a our personality or to record our personal image? In 2019, the European Data Protection Supervisor published a report regarding the use of smart glasses. He showed his concern about the use of this type of device without anyone noticing. In the case of contact lenses, according to Parra, something similar could happen.

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