Contact lenses have up to now been relatively low-tech devices that enable wearers to replace bulky, sometimes unattractive glasses. But RaayonNova founder and CEO Aleksandr Shtukater is developing advanced contact lens technology he expects will morph into an augmented and virtual reality platform that can potentially replace existing devices such as smartphones and tablets to perform actions.
Under development for several years, the technology creates a “smart” lens with an embedded display that is placed directly over the eye’s cornea. By projecting information directly into the eye’s retina, the technology would enable users to make gesture-based eye movements to initiate responses.
“We want to make use of natural eye movement, by determining the shift in focusing,” Shtukater explained to FierceElectronics in an interview earlier this week. Shtukater explained that the patented technology could conceivably in the long run replace smartphones and other input devices, by enabling users to make eye gestures to initiate responses to perform specific actions.
According to the patent filed for the technology, the contact lens system’s embedded display is configured to output a variety of UI components to the user. The processor is configured to shift at least a part of an image to a central position of the embedded display, bringing the image into focus and selecting the UI component and optionally trigger it; thereby generating an appropriate system event.
The technology could allow the incorporation of features to help those with visual impairments. For instance, color could be added to direct wearers to certain features or warn of impending dangers.
While the technology shows a lot of promise, Shtukater said RaayonNova still needs to refine several aspects of the smart contact lens. For one, he said the company was trying to work out the details for a control system that would accurately track eye movements. “You need to accurately monitor eye focal and orientation changes,” he added.
Another challenge is how the smart contact lens would be powered. Shtukater is certain the final solution will be wirelessly powered, using perhaps batteries or solar power. Some tiny auxiliary wearable power unit may be needed.
Shtuaker said that RaayonNova would likely engage technology partners to help with final product development and ramping up production. While declining to provide specifics, he indicated that initial products likely won’t be available for another year.
RaayonNova could eventually see competition from other developers. The most notable, according to Shutakaeter, is from a recent startup called Mojo Vision, a Saratoga, California, startup that is reportedly developing a prototype smart contact lens with a built-in display.
Korea’s Samsung has also reportedly developed a smart contact lens capable of recording audio and video. While Samsung has been granted a patent, no products incorporating the technology have so far emerged.
The best-known effort at intelligent eyewear to date is the Google Glass, an attempt at smart eyeglasses. Google stopped selling the original Google Glass product in 2015 and has since concentrated on enterprise editions of the device for the medical, industrial and logistics markets.