Wearable technologies may eventually take a giant leap forward with smart contact lenses that enable augmented reality. An article on Technology Review outlines several projects that are focusing on developing such alternatives to Google Glass (and competitors such as the Frauhofer data glasses).
While the potential of Google Glass is not fully known, since the device has not yet been released on the marketplace and developers are just starting to develop Glassware (Google Glass apps), augmented reality lenses could enable the user to do pretty much everything such glasses could one day do, says Jang-Ung Park, a chemical engineer at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, to Technology Review. In addition, since the lenses are located inside the body, electronic lenses also could have additional medical applications, such as the ability to monitor health conditions. (Some companies have already developed electronic contact lenses for such use, but those lenses do not offer any augmented-reality applications.)
Augmented-reality lenses face both technological and societal hurdles, however. Engineers have to resolve the problem that they eyes can’t clearly focus on an image as close as where the contact lens would be placed. Another even larger hurdle may be on a societal level. Electronic lenses make me think of cell phone tattoos, a technology Nokia recently patented and that could notify users when they receive calls or texts. Do we really want to be constantly connected? Surveys show the public is split on this. About 20% of respondents in a UK survey said Google Glass should be banned. Meanwhile, the wearable technology market is predicted to grow tenfold in the next three to five years.