Scientists at Ghent University have developed a tiny curved liquid crystal display (LCD) that can potentially be embedded inside a contact lens. Light emitting diodes (LED) have been integrated into contact lenses before (see flashbacks below), but an LCD screen can provide a higher resolution at small scales.
According to Jelle De Smet, lead researcher on the project, “the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extreme molding processes.” The lens technology is still far from seeing practical application as it will probably need to use novel methods of being powered and receiving a signal.
The first prototype presented today contains a patterned dollar sign, depicting the many cartoons that feature people or figures with dollars in their eyes. It can only display rudimentary patterns, similar to an electronic pocket calculator. In the future, the researchers envision fully autonomous electronic contact lenses embedded with this display. These next-generation solutions could be used for medical purposes, for example to control the light transmission toward the retina in case of a damaged iris, or for cosmetic purposes such as an iris with a tunable color. In the future, the display could also function as a head-up display, superimposing an image onto the user’s normal view. However, there are still hurdles to overcome for broader consumer and civilian implementation.
Here’s a closer look at the lens in action complemented by an eclectic musical accompaniment: