Glasses with integrated cameras and display capabilities in the lenses already exist, even if they are very rare and expensive, which means that contact lenses have to catch up in that regard.
It so happens that contacts have actually gained the ability to act as electronic displays, something that allows them to double as sunglasses.
The feat was achieved by researchers from the Center of Microsystems Technology in Gent University. They used, instead of normal glass, a curved liquid crystal display.
The LCD can display text received through a wireless connection. Currently, the functionality is limited to a single character, since the curved LCD has a resolution of one pixel.
Naturally, the pixel density will increase with every new research and development milestone.
“This is not science fiction,” said Jelle De Smet, chief researcher for the project.
“This will never replace the cinema screen for films. But for specific applications it may be interesting to show images such as road directions or projecting text messages from our smart phones straight to our eye.”
There are side-benefits to using an LCD for contact lenses. One of them is the ability to darken the whole display instead of just showing a letter or symbol, thus allowing the lenses to double as sunglasses.
The applications extend beyond convenience when walking around during sunny summer days or bright winter afternoons.
Since the light transmitted to the retina can be controlled, the capability opens up new possibilities for treating damaged eyes.
Adjusting people's eye colors on the fly is another possibility. Right now, colored contact lenses are what people have to use to change the color of the iris.
The main advantage of the lens over previous attempts is that the whole lens surface can display information, not just a part of it.