For the visually impaired, contact lenses are more than likely considered annoying necessity for anyone that wants clear vision without the need for glasses.
However, thanks to tech giants like Sony, Google and Samsung, smart contact lenses might be the next big thing.
Exhibited in films like Mission Impossible or the gritty TV series Black Mirror, the ability to transform a contact lens into an intelligent piece of information transmitting equipment is not too far away. Earlier this year, the life science division of Alphabet called Verily, which was previously part of Google, took in an $800 million investment to help this become a reality.
If you are anything like myself, you might be hoping that they provide us with hands free Netflix streaming on the commute to work, or for a quick Facebook search when we bump into someone don’t quite remember the name of. Instead, they are actually being tested for something more basic, and arguably more important.
Smart contact lenses are currently being tested as a method of monitoring diseases, such as diabetes. The aim is to enable diabetics to live a life free of regular finger pricking which is used to measure blood glucose levels, and instead employing embedded microelectronics to measure glucose in the user’s tears.
One company which is hoping to bring this idea to life is Medella Health. The Canadian startup secured $1.4 million in the summer of last year to fund a 15-person team working to create a glucose monitoring solution for diabetics.
They claim their smart contact lens will cost roughly $25 to create, compared with Google’s public disclosures, which will cost around $200-$300 per lens. This could be a huge life changing breakthrough for the 415 million people living with diabetes worldwide, allowing them to have access to technology which is simple and pain free.
Even though this is a large area of focus for the ambitious developers, there is still good news for those of us who were hoping for the Netflix hands free streaming. According to a recent report titled “Global Smart Contact Lenses Market 2017 Forecast to 2022,” we can also expect to see a whole host of other exciting benefits.
For example, social entertainment features are likely to be integrated into its design, so you can simultaneously observe the world around you while you are also viewing a small screen in a frame mounted projection system for learning, gaming or augmented reality.
The military is also likely to benefit from the introduction of this technology (if it isn’t already), allowing for features such as night vision or facial recognition. As this video demonstrates, Sony hopes to bring us this ability along with many other cutting edge features.
Our vision is one of the most precious senses we have. We depend on it from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. Naturally, with the introduction of this technology, we are likely to see big changes in behaviour since smart contact lenses could literally change the way we see the world and others.