U.S. company Innovega announced that its iOptik contact lenses which focus 3D screens directly into people’s eyeballs could be on sale as early as 2014.
The tiny “screens” sit directly on users’ eyeballs and work with a pair of lightweight glasses with a built-in translucent screen.
The experience is equivalent to a 240-inch television viewed at a distance of 10 feet, says Innovega’s CEO Steve Willey.
The devices can “pair” with smartphones and portable game devices to deliver up-close video – or switch to a translucent “augmented reality” view, where computer information is layered over the world we know.
The devices can be worn while moving about – previous bulky “VR headsets” have blindfolded their users and can only be used sitting down.
The effect could be similar to the lenses worn by Tom Cruise in Minority Report.
Innovega is also developing hi-tech lenses for use by American soldiers, feeding battlefield information directly into their eyes.
DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), thought of as the American military’s “mad scientist” wing, has been funding research on “soldier mounted displays” for some time.
It’s now working on “iOptik” lenses with Innovega.
The lenses, made with nano-scale engineering processes, work as a hi-tech focusing device, which allows Innovega’s glasses to be considerably less bulky than previous devices.
The lenses themselves require no power, and thus can sit safely on the eyeball.
DARPA projects are often oddball technology, but it also has a history of far-sighted technological leaps.
DARPA invented the first virtual reality devices, and one of the precursors of the modern internet.
DARPA says: “Innovega’s iOptiks are contact lenses that enhance normal vision by allowing a wearer to view virtual and augmented reality images without the need for bulky apparatus.
“Instead of oversized virtual reality helmets, digital images are projected onto tiny full-color displays that are very near the eye.
“These novel contact lenses allow users to focus simultaneously on objects that are close up and far away.”
Innovega claims that the devices could become popular rapidly due to the number of contact lens wearers worldwide.
The program seeks to develop novel computational imaging capabilities and explore joint design of hardware and software that give warfighters access to systems that greatly enhance their awareness, security and survivability.