If you lived through the late 80s you will have fond memories of the terminally ill cop who returned to the force as a powerful cyborg to clean up a crime ridden Detroit – remember the name? That’s right – RoboCop. Our favourite bionic bobby became a cult hero among 80s adolescents, and his ability to read data directly in front of his eyes is already being developed and has undergone successful testing. If you ever had a RoboCop fantasy, it just might come true.
These are contact lenses that can project images, and allow wearers to read floating texts and even augment their sight with computer-generated images. Essentially the technology functions by inserting a bespoke sapphire LED and antenna into a contact lens, with the lens itself connecting directly with your eye, in short allowing you to have a non-stop mobile internet connection right in front of your eyes.
The technology is being developed at the University of Washington in Seattle with early tests on rabbits showing that the technology works, and importantly is safe. But so far the contacts can only work within centimetres of the wireless battery while its microcircuitry is only advanced enough to incorporate one light-emitting diode according to the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.
The researchers however are confident of the possibilities with more pixels being embedded to produce more complex holographic images – such as emails and even car directions. Lead researcher Professor Babak Parviz told the BBC: “Our next goal is to incorporate some predetermined text in the contact lens.” The major issue with developing the technology was that the eye can only focus on objects if they are held a few centimetres away from the eye, with scientists at the Aalto University in Finland adapting lenses to shorten the focal distance.
One central problem in the development of the bionic lenses was the material used to make current contact lenses, as it is traditionally extremely delicate and flimsy, but researchers built the lenses using circuits from layers of metal only a few nanometres thick, around one-thousandth the width of a human hair, constructing LEDs measuring one-third of a millimetre across.
An area where bionic lenses could have a an immediate impact is virtual gaming, imagine playing Call of Duty or Fifa by simply blinking your eye – sliding in for a 50-50 tackle with Wayne Rooney, looking Manchester United’s number 10 right between the eyes.
Ultimately, when developed and produced on a consumer level, the way in which we interact with technology could change forever.