Why We're All Going To Be Wearing Contact Lenses Soon

Photo: Getty Images.
You're enjoying a magical sunset on a white-sand beach. You've got to capture this moment, but pulling out your phone would just feel wrong. Blink. Blink blink. You take a few pictures with your smart contact lenses instead.

Smart contact lenses? Yes, you read that right. Sony, Samsung, and Google have all filed patents for smart contact-lens technology in the past few months. That means all three of these companies have at least some staff dedicated to exploring this idea and how it could become a reality — which means, in all likelihood, it will become a reality at some point.

The details and implementations vary, but one thing's certain: We will be able to get information right in front of our eyeballs, and in the not-too-distant future.

Are we on the verge of Google Glass 2.0? Here's what you need to know.

Why Contact Lenses?

Tech companies are always searching for ways to make their tech more frictionless — easier to use and less disruptive to your everyday life. Putting a phone or camera between yourself and your baby to capture her first steps? That's disruptive.

Like how smartwatches offer a more subtle way to stay up-to-date on what's happening in your digital world, embedding tech onto your eyeballs could help integrate tasks into your day-to-day in a more seamless way.
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What Will Smart Contact Lenses Do?

Basically, they would be Google Glass-like, but in a much more discreet form factor.

In Sony's version, the focus would be on the contact lenses replacing your camera. The lenses would be able to tell the difference between a voluntary or an involuntary blink. With a voluntary blink, you could capture photo or video. All the hardware would be embedded around the iris, so it doesn't interfere with your vision, and it would use piezoelectric sensors (motion sensors) to convert your eye's movements into power for its tiny circuitry. (Could you imagine having to plug in your contact lenses to recharge them each night?)

But contact lenses could also be used for augmented reality, to overlay useful information in your field of vision. Say you're driving to work. Instead of your phone alerting you to an upcoming accident and suggesting an alternate route, you'd see the alert in your field of vision, with arrows directing you to the new path.

One of Google's ideas is particularly useful: It would eliminate the need for glasses or contact lens prescriptions. It would be able to zoom or focus your vision on objects near or far. It could correct myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism, as well as an age-related condition called presbyopia, where your eyes lose the ability to properly focus. Telescopes? Microscopes? Those could become ancient history.

But like how your Apple Watch needs to be connected to your iPhone for all the heavy lifting, your contact lenses would also need to be connected to your smartphone. For now at least, all that circuitry can't fit in a tiny circle around your pupil.

How Will They Work?

Naturally, one way you could wear this technology is with a pair of special contact lenses that you pop onto your eyeballs. You take them in and out as needed; likely, they could eventually be customized with your prescription, too — if you even need a prescription anymore in The Future. At first, you might only wear them for special occasions (when you're traveling, for instance), but eventually, they could become a part of your daily life. This sounds entirely reasonable, although potentially costly; we imagine we'd eventually lose a contact while trying to snap pics in the pool.

Google's proposed implementation is decidedly more...permanent. Google wants to surgically remove the lens of your eye, inject fluid into the now-empty lens capsule, and then put an electronic lens in that fluid. So basically, Google wants to turn you into a cyborg.

Maybe in 10 years I'll feel differently, but right now, there's no way I'd implant gadgetry from Google, Apple, or any other tech company straight into my eyeball.

But what are your thoughts on the idea of smart contact lenses? Does it sound like a way we could finally go hands-free with our smartphone — or just a way for creeps to take more pictures of our chests? You can share your thoughts below.
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