Forget Google Glass, The First Smart Contact Lens Is On The Way
Would you wear an electronic device on your eyeball? This is a question you may have to answer soon, as South Korean tech giant Samsung has been granted one of the first patents for a smart contact lens. The patent was applied for back in September 2014 and granted in April, according to research by industry magazine SamMobile, and it could be a game changer in the world of wearable tech.
It looks like the smart contact lens will offer the same type of augmented reality functions as Google Glass, but without the clunky eyewear. You’d have instant access to your camera, video calls with friends, reminders, alerts and even your navigation route literally right in front of your eyes. It would be worn just like any other contact lens, but would house its own electronic circuitry and features like movement sensors, a display and even a camera.
It’s unlikely that a smart contact lens would operate as a completely standalone device, however, and would most likely require a paired smartphone for processing. According to the patent, commands would be sent to the device through blinking. It will be interesting to see how Samsung solves the problem of accidental inputs if that’s the case. And will smart contact lens users look like twitchy-eyed crazy people to the rest of us as they fumble around with the device? That remains to be seen.
So what will this new tech be called? We’re guessing “Gear Blink,” since Samsung already trademarked the name in South Korea and the US some time ago. The company is already looking to take a major chunk of the burgeoning virtual reality market with their Gear VR, so it looks like Samsung is heavily focused on the future and will continue to be a major player in consumer electronics going forward. Having said that, a patent is just the first step and there’s no guarantee the product will make it to market. We have yet to see a prototype, and Samsung have plenty of research, development and testing to do before they can be sure their smart contact lens is viable.
It should be noted that Samsung is not the first company out of the starting blocks with this idea. Google announced their own smart contact lens project way back in January 2014, although theirs seems entirely focused on medical applications (specifically the management of diabetes). But if Samsung make it to market with a consumer smart lens, it’s likely the big G and other industry giants won’t be too far behind.
For those who already think technology has become too pervasive (and indeed, invasive) in our lives, smart contact lenses will only add fuel to the fire. There are also some justifiable privacy concerns, especially regarding the issue of image capturing devices being hidden inside contact lenses. Will there be roadblocks and opposition to overcome before the first smart contact lens hits store shelves? More than likely, but the concept seems like the logical next step forward for heads-up displays and augmented reality, which gives those who would embrace the technology reason to be hopeful.
Q: What would you do with a smart contact lens if you had one? Share your thoughts in the comments below.