PR image from Imec (via Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre)
Imagine the ultimate AR (Augmented Reality) system. What would it consist of? Two 20 inch LCD screens duct-taped to your head while that late 80’s camcorder mounted on an old football helmet, video processed by the computer tower strapped to your back, software overlays to augment those images before sending the almost real-time information to the monitors? Maybe, but Imec (Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre) and UGent (Ghent University) are developing a better AR system that will not require you to carry 100lbs of gear and can be embedded into ordinary contact lenses.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin designed contact lenses (back in 2009) using LED-based micro-circuitry. However, the problem with these types of lenses is that their resolution is pixel limited; meaning that it would be exceedingly difficult to view the AR world around you in high-def clarity. LCD-based lenses aren’t straddled with this limitation and, according to Imec, can provide a wide range of resolutions (pixel numbers/sizes). Their prototype design features a curved LCD display on a conductive layer embedded into a thin polymer film and are only able to project rudimentary graphic designs (much like a calculator), such as dollar signs, or solid colors. The current prototype doesn’t allow the wearer to actually see what’s being displayed (as our eyes aren’t able to focus on images displayed that close), but it’s the hopes of the researchers to expand on the technology in the future and adapt them for use in the medical field (control the amount of light gathered by damaged irises or medicinal sunglasses) or used as fashionable ‘tunable’ colored contact lenses. However the ultimate goal stated by the researchers is to provide the wearer AR-based lenses that feature a fully integrated HUD (Heads up Display) which would super-impose images onto the wearers normal view such as heading and directions of travel, text messages/video calls and practical information of the immediate area.
AR is the future, but how it will be used is still in the making.
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