Complex Made Simple

Smart contact lenses could one day replace our own eyes

From self-treating glaucoma to zooming in on faraway objects and having a built-in LCD display, today scientists are pressing ahead and preparing us for a future where we expand our sight capabilities using contact lenses

Acuvue sells Oasys with Transitions lenses that automatically darken in sunlight Mojo Vision placed 14K pixels-per-inch microdisplays, image sensors, motion sensors, and wireless radios into contact lenses The global Smart Contact Lenses market was valued at $165.2 million in 2019, expected to grow to $1.12 bn in 2025

From self-treating glaucoma to zooming in on faraway objects and having a built-in LCD display, today scientists are pressing ahead and preparing us for a future where we expand our sight capabilities using contact lenses.  

Today’s soft contact lenses correct our vision. Tomorrow, they might replace it.

Latest research  

Researchers at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have developed a prototype of a contact lens that continuously monitors changes in intraocular pressure, the pressure within the eyeball.  

The continuous monitoring provided by the contact lens could come in handy for people suffering from glaucoma. This lens can monitor changes in intraocular pressure throughout the day, and can responsively release drugs to alleviate glaucoma.  

Engineers in South Korea have applied a layer of graphene to contact lenses to help shield the eyes from electromagnetic radiation. The thin graphene layer also reduces dehydration.

There are already lenses that function as in-eye sunglasses, darkening, and lightening in response to changes in light intensity. 

Acuvue sells Oasys with Transitions lenses that automatically darken in sunlight, like tiny sunglasses for your pupils, and researchers have been working for years on smart lenses that zoom on demand, measure chemical levels in your body, and administer drugs. 

California-based tech start-up Mojo Vision is working on contact lenses with an inbuilt LCD display, which opens up enormous possibilities. Similar to a head-up display projected on a car’s windshield, the contact lens can provide a wide range of information, from phone notifications, map directions, and more.

Mojo Vision has placed 14K pixels-per-inch microdisplays, image sensors, motion sensors, and wireless radios into contact lenses that properly fit into your eyes. These augmented reality lenses are powered wirelessly.

It calls its augmented reality contact lens technology the ‘Invisible Computing’ as it will enable humans to take their eyes off from their smartphones as all information is directly in front of their eyes. This information, as of now, consists of text messages, navigation routes, presentation points of your meeting, or steps to tell how you can repair machinery.

This experience is different from just wearing AR glasses because even if you close your eyes, you can still see the information.

At CES 2021, InWith Corp unveiled a method to place augmented vision display chips into the soft hydrogel contact lenses that millions of people wear daily.  In early 2020, the company announced a partnership with Bausch + Lomb, showing flexible electronic circuitry embedded directly into lenses.   

The global Smart Contact Lenses market was valued at $165.2 million in 2019 and is anticipated to grow at a rate of 61.5% during 2019-2025, subsequently generating around $1.12 billion by 2025.

Future growth areas for contact lenses

One area that will gain importance is performance athletics: Today’s runners have a world of metrics on their wrists, but the power of biometric data directly in your field of view should outclass wearables.

Peer further down the road, into the post-smartphone era, and lenses like this could replace our very eyes. Futurist Gary Bengier, a former Silicon Valley technologist, writer, and philosopher, envisions a world 140 years from now, where displays aren’t just worn in contact lenses but are actually part of you, thanks to a chip inserted behind your ear and connected to a corneal implant. In his new book Unfettered Journey, he describes how artificial intelligence and mind-machine interfaces combine with retinal implants to essentially build Wikipedia directly into your body.