bionic eye
Photo from BBC News

Ok, I think this is pretty weird, but I also didn’t know why we needed phones that could show movies or make email available at any time.  Now, of course, my Droid is almost sewn to my hand.  So maybe one day I won’t be able to live without my “eye-mail.”

According to a story from BBC News, researchers at Washington University are developing bionic contact lenses that will be able to project images, including text, in front of your eyes. They have a prototype, but right now it only works if it is within centimeters of a wireless battery.  And “its microcircuitry is only enough for one light-emitting diode” – whatever that means. Eventually, they hope to have enough pixels embedded in the flexible lens so that it can project “complex holographic images.”


Possible uses for bionic contact lenses

In case you can’t imagine why you would need this, here are some possible uses:

  • Beam the directions of your trip or your vehicle speed onto the windshield
  • Video gaming anytime, anywhere via your contact lens (perhaps you could put a different game in each lens and play two at once!
  • Reading your email while working out
  • Real-time review of your biometric data (blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, and so on)
  • Cheating on exams – this is a big one – imagine having the course text embedded in your lens?
  • How about your wedding vows – no more flubs at the altar
  • Here is one for Rick Perry:  Include a list with all three of Cabinet-level departments you would abolish if elected President – no more oops! (the world would be a duller place without oops moments though)
Prof. Babak Parviz, McMorrow Innovation Associate Professor, University of Washington

Well, I could go on and on, but I think you can cook up new and compelling uses on your own.  It isn’t clear when these “gotta have” devices will be on the market.  Right now, two major milestones have been achieved. One, the lens has proven safe in tests in rabbits. And, two, researchers led by Professor Babak Parviz, the McMorrow Innovation Associate Professor of Bionanotechnology, Self-Assembly, Nanofabrication, MEMS at the University of Washington in Seattle, have adapted the lens to shorten the focal distance so that the eye can focus on an image generated on its surface (usually the eye can only focus on something held at least several centimeters away).

There are still some major hurdles – proving the lenses are safe and effective in humans for one.  But there is a precedent that predicts success:  A Swiss company called Sensimed has already brought to market a smart contact lens that has built-in computer technology that monitors pressure in the eye as a way of monitoring glaucoma.

One step closer to a bionic being…way to go Professor Parviz and team.


  1. Boy, what a great device for minds that are already fragmented, stressed out and neurotic from too much input. My god with this device we can get lost in our minds for a lifetime and never look at our souls. A perfect Christmas gift for the American that has everything.


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