The next step in the VR/AR evolution: VR contact lenses

What if all you had to do to go virtual, was to wear a pair of contact lenses?

What if all you had to do to go virtual, was to wear a pair of contact lenses?

We’ve covered quite a few Virtual Reality related topics lately; be it the best gaming VR device comparison, the Assassin’s Creed VR movie, or more recently a look into the future of VR, and what that could mean to us. But it seems the future holds more; an AR experience that requires nothing more than a contact lens to use.

Google Lens – The Instigator

How did this all start? About a year or so after the reveal of the Google Glass, it was rumored that Google’s next big step in the VR/AR world was to focus their energy on a contact lens follow-up to the Glass. These speculations were stalled however, with Google’s revelation of the Smart Contact Lens Project in early 2014, a device capable of recording glucose levels found in tears.

The device, while a great boon for people suffering from diabetes, was not connected to the alteration of reality. There were many rumors that Google was also working on a photographic lens, but these never got far.

A ray of hope – EPFL’s zooming lenses

In early 2015, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) based in Switzerland, announced a Telescopic Contact Lens that was capable of zooming up to 2.8x magnification, with the wink of an eye (quite literally). With smart registers of a normal wink and a zoom-wink, the device was considered a way forward for the visually impaired.

The Hiatus

Things slowed down for a bit after that. Oculus was just taking off, and the Rift, with its Kickstarter project and later acquisition by Facebook, was becoming a force to be reckoned with. Valve and HTC later partnered up to bring about the HTC Vive, and that was when the true craze for dominance in the VR market came about. Microsoft, PlayStation, AMD, Samsung and many others followed suit by bringing forth their own versions of a VR/AR capable headset.

Samsung – Not about to be left behind

Things changed dramatically three weeks ago however. Samsung filed for a patent for their own contact lens recording device, which was capable of recording and displaying images with the use of a connection to a mobile phone (probably a Samsung one). This in large part would allow for the contact lens to take images – with a blink as the capture button – store them on the phone, and display them on the lens again. The patent itself is quite ambiguous in nature, but that seems like the gist of it.

Sony – The Way Forward

You would think the surprises end there. However, a patent filed by Sony for their very own contact lens seems to go a step further. The Sony contact lens not only captures images, but it also stores them within the contact lens. This is obviously a big step, but that’s not the shocker. The real surprise is the fact that the contact lens can also capture and display video! This is as close to an AR experience one could ask for.

Where does this lead us?

Despite the great leaps in technology, both in VR and in wearable tech, we are still a fair while away from an AR-capable contact lens. However, this is no longer a probability, and has been promoted to a likely possibility, albeit in a distant future.

So what do you think? Do you think the tech giants’ eyes are bigger than their stomachs, or is this just the next step in the technological evolution? Let us know what you think in the comments section below, and share this article with your friends if you enjoyed it!

About the author