How do you think most people would respond if you asked them, “How fascinated are you with contact lenses?” Now, how do you think those same people would respond if you asked them, “How fascinated are you with the idea of sending text messages from your contact lenses?”
If contact lenses stay on their current technological track, that might come sooner rather than later.
How Contact Lenses Came into View
Ordinary contact lenses are said to have been first designed by Leonardo DaVinci in 1509 and constructed by F. A. Muller based on the molds of the human eyes created by Sir John Herschel in 1827.
These first contacts were created from hand-blown glass and were so heavy that they caused severe discomfort after only an hour or two of wear.
When it comes to smart contacts, however, the designs came much, much later. Arguably the first attempt at creating a smart form of eyewear was the Google Glass, first produced in 2013.
The commercial designs were bulky and awkward and would never gain widespread casual popularity, though the trade-focused designs would. In fact, they are still in production today.
Are Smart Contacts on the Horizon or Just a Distant Blur?
There are currently no commercially available designs for smart contacts on the market today, although so many different tech giants are competing to be the first that this could very well be the space race of the early 2020s, a pun-filled decade for the production of new vision accessories.
Google announced in 2014 plans to create a smart contact lens capable of monitoring glucose levels in the eyes, particularly with a focus on diabetics, as well as improving vision.
More recently, in 2016, Samsung secured patents for contact lenses with cameras inside of them. The cameras would be operated by blinking and could potentially be controlled through a smartphone instead.
How Hollywood Sees Biometric Contact Lenses
Biometrics and cyber implants have long been featured in pop culture and media. One major example of biometric contact lenses comes from the hit video game trilogy Mass Effect, in which there are countless references to cyborg-style improvements done to creatures’ eyes.
While these improvements tend to take the form of implantation, as in the Star Wars universe, the technology is not entirely dissimilar to the idea of smart contact lenses.
Essentially, the primary differences are that smart contact lenses are easily removable whereas implants require surgery, and that smart contact lenses are entirely self-contained units whereas ocular implants tend to house some form of processor inside the skull, typically by removing the eyeball from its socket.
Perhaps the most terrifying example of ocular biometrics is to be found in the popular sci-fi horror Netflix series Black Mirror, particularly the episode entitled “The Entire History of You.”
Whether or not biometric contact lenses will prove practical and sleek or less useful than a smartphone, clunky, and awkward like the original casual version of the Google Glass, remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain: this technology is coming soon and coming in force.
For an in-depth analysis of the technology that goes into the creation of biometric contact lenses, check out this article originally published in Science Magazine.