Virtual Life Through a Lens

We see almost every week the user/client-friendly results of the latest developments in mobile technology. Features such as live streaming of sporting events were considered ambitious not too long ago, for example, but now operators are falling over themselves to provide these and other exciting, 'futuristic' services.

But a recent scientific development is could be set to take our virtual world to a whole new level, as researchers have succeeded in creating a prototype computerised contact lens that could deliver hands-free information updates. Film and science fiction buffs might already be familiar with such a concept as this kind of technology appeared in The Terminator films and, more recently, television series Torchwood.

One problem researchers had to deal with was that the human eye, with its minimum focal distance of several centimetres, cannot resolve objects on a contact lens, with information projected on to the lens appearing blurry. To address this they incorporated a set of Fresnel lenses into the device, which are much thinner and flatter than conventional lenses and can be used to focus the projected image on to the retina.

The contact lens, created by researchers at the University of Washington and Aalto University, Finland, consists of an antenna that harvests power sent by an external source, plus an integrated circuit to store energy and transfer it to a transparent sapphire chip containing a single blue LED. Although it currently contains only a single pixel, researchers envisage the production of lenses with hundreds of pixels. This could have implications across all sorts of sectors, one such being gaming.

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