The contact lens once had but one humble goal – to correct the world’s vision problems one fuss-free lens at a time. It wasn’t long before our human vanity turned the simple contact lens into a fashion accessory, allowing us to change the colour, and shape of our eyes, to attract a mate, turn ourselves into red-eyed demons, or simply achieve that cat-eyed look we’d all been searching for. And now we humans are taking contact lenses one step further – with virtual reality lenses.
Yes, you read that right. Contact lenses may never look the same again, thanks to the boffins over at eye specialists Innovega. Their iOptik innovation, a new kind of dual focus contact lens, has the ability to project 3D images onto the eye itself. So if you’ve ever dreamed of wandering around your own virtual reality world without having to strap on that unwieldy virtual reality head gear, your chance to become Predator is finally here. Almost.
These lenses aren’t quite as space age as you might hope. For starters, for these things to work, you’ll still need to wear glasses. You see, the lenses work by projecting images from these glasses, onto the contact lenses, which allows the wearer to focus in on the information being displayed, as well as the world around them, simultaneously. Sound like a headache?
These lenses give your eyes powers that they don’t have naturally. Using two filters for each lens, you’ll be able to focus clearly on two focal planes at the same time. Which is more than a little mindblowing. By directing light to both the centre of the pupil as well as the pupil rim, you’ll be able to clearly see the world around you, only with handy data projected over the top.
Never ones to miss a beat when it comes to cutting edge battlefield technology, the US military’s research lab, DARPA, have already expressed an interest, because these new lenses will allow troops in the field a far wider range of vision.
For those of us thankfully not on the battlefield, these new lenses could mean handy visual pointers as we wander round town – directional arrows and the like. It could also turn the daily commute into a world of hands-free fun, as we sit back, relax and watch the latest movie releases directly on our eyeballs, with no need for separate screens. And your favourite console game will be taken to the next level, as your shoot-em-up components, zombies and monsters wander all around your field of vision, making it feel like they’re in your living room. Scary? Exciting? Possibly both.
These new iOptik lenses are ready to go. In fact, the Pentagon’s already placed an order. For us mere mortals not at the forefront of US military operations though, a general release date has been pencilled in for 2014. So that gives interested parties two years to save up (these lenses are NOT going to be cheap), Google two years to get their Project Glass up to dual projection speed, and the rest of us time to ponder what this new development could mean for humankind and future technologies. No more living in the real world? Future evil governments feeding 3D propaganda directly into our brains? Or, gasp, no more TV?