Dec 1, 2011Science and Technology
Bionic contact lenses

Scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle have actually developed a functioning bionic contact lens prototype with a built-in antenna and a single LED light that has been tested on rabbits.  This research may seem far removed from having an entire computer on your eyeball, but if the evolution of computers can tell us anything, this technology will likely reach consumers in the not-so distant future. 

The applications for a bionic contact lens are as endless as the ones that can be downloaded onto an iPhone.  We would be able check our email, play a game, take a picture and upload it to Facebook, in the blink of an eye. No, I mean literally, in the blink of an eye. We would be able to find local movie times, locate the closest public restrooms, read a paper and, perhaps ironically, peruse the internet to check the weather. 

The mass production of fully functional bionic contact lenses may yet be many years away, but technology is already pointing in this direction. New layer-based reality applications, such as Wikitude, combine GPS, YELP and other social networking sites with your camera.  By simply using your camera, the internet is superimposed in real-time on the world before you.  Special ski goggles, with the use of a heads-up display, provide real-time GPS, weather and speed information.  Bionic contacts are simply the next step in this evolution. 

Bionic contacts can be exciting for the average consumer.  For example, the ability to play a game with the reflexes of your eyes will completely revolutionize the video game industry; however, its potential use in other aspects of society can also be tremendous.  

Recently, there was a study showing how doctors started adapting 3D-technology in order to fully assess the facial damage of a patient, allowing them to accurately and rapidly plan out the surgery that will be most effective for facial reconstruction. If this 3D- technology is combined with bionic lenses, a surgeon may be able to look at the patient, quickly map out their surgery and provide rapid treatment, ultimately improving the overall healing process.  If connected to a medical record database, these lenses, in the eyes of a paramedic, will be invaluable.  With complete medical records, the paramedic will be able to make rapid and accurate judgment calls for the patients’ well-being.

Combined with the ability to visually detect the entire electromagnetic range, the military and the police could potentially find hiding criminals or insurgents in a dense landscape, which can ultimately save lives.  Also, if the airport security technology, hopefully minus the x-ray output (that much radiation near the eye couldn’t be good), can be adapted for these lenses, police and military could easily discern armed criminals from unarmed criminals or innocent bystanders, greatly reducing the chance of unnecessary deaths.

There are, of course, drawbacks to this technology.  Radiation and possible heat issues are a concern.  Further tests are necessary. Even though animal tests were performed, until we know the effect on human eyes, especially when regarding the amount of usage this technology would likely receive, these devices will likely not be considered safe.  Also, more laws will need to be passed.  If you thought texting while driving was bad, just wait.

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