As Dr. Michio Kaku has been predicting for years, we are inching ever closer to producing virtual reality contact lenses that will add a layer of interactive, rich information over our mundane visual landscape.
The newest innovation comes from a joint venture between DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and a technology company called Innovega.
Innovega describes the new technology and its potential applications thusly:
Innovega designers and partners considered the future of personal media, social networking, and mobile computing, and converged upon an aggressive design-point that meets today’s needs as well as demands of high-performance AR which require a see-through and panoramic display interface. Innovega refers to its innovative product as a ‘lifestyle interface‘, since consumers view their digital content in a way that is similar to how they see the world around them. By providing a transparent, fashionable, and comfortable interface that is consistent with today’s active lifestyles, the architecture also eliminates the social barrier that traditional opaque and bulky video eyewear seems to create.
Now, before you rush and order your own Innovega iOptik set-up, there are a few caveats. For one thing, you won’t be able to just insert a contact lens and start living in your own personal version of Minority Report. The new contact lenses are only half of the equation; you also have to wear a set of proprietary glasses that work in conjunction with the lenses to produce the promised futuristic effect. The lenses themselves act primarily as dynamic focusing tools, using nano-fabricated elements to make the optics of the “augmented reality” glasses work correctly. If Innovega follows through on this promise, iOptik users will have access to a quasi-virtual “screen size that is equivalent to a 240 inch television (viewed at a usual distance of 10 feet).”
While the lack of a self-contained contact lens that can act as a virtual overlay on your vision might seem a tad disappointing, the new Innovega technology is a big step toward realizing that dream. In the past, virtual reality or augmented reality technology has required either giant helmets, bulky headsets with various accessories, or complex systems of cameras and projectors. Innovega has shrunk this down to a pair of glasses and contact lens. Can full, in-eye virtual reality be far off?
Would you use such a technology if it was available? How do you see super-science enabled devices like virtual reality contact lenses changing your everyday life? How could Professor Kaku’s vision of the future alter the fabric of society?