After two decades as an electrical engineer, Randy Sprague quit his job in 2008 to start a solar power company. He had been planning the venture for years, saving up, getting his wife's blessing. But then one morning while taking a shower, he had a brainstorm for an entirely different idea: contact lenses that could act as part of a wearable display. Users could instantly augment their view with information—say, the price of an antique in a store or the species of a tree in the forest—or transform their field of vision into a virtual videogame screen. Suddenly the solar company no longer seemed as appealing.
Sprague had designed wearable displays used by the military at his old job but found it difficult to produce a lightweight one with a wide field of view. What he realized in the shower was that he could sidestep those problems by moving the screen to a pair of glasses and adding an image filter right on the user's eye. To develop the invention, he founded a company he named Innovega. Within 18 months, he had received a National Science Foundation grant.
In Sprague's current prototype, called iOptik, two small projectors mounted on each arm of a pair of eyeglasses cast an image on the inside surface of polycarbonate lenses. Two sets of nanofilters made from minuscule wires embedded in each contact lens permit different light sources to enter the user's eye. The outer filter lets through unpolarized light from the outside world. The inner filter lets in only light from the projectors, by blocking out light of different wavelengths. This allows the user to see the display image and the outside world simultaneously. Users will also be able to switch from the see-through mode to a totally occluded mode so they can play a videogame or watch a 3-D movie with a 120-degree field of vision.
iOptik is not alone in the burgeoning field of augmented-reality devices. Other companies, including Google, have AR systems in development, but those displays are far heavier or have a much smaller visual field. Sprague says his invention will be ready for FDA testing by the spring of 2014, and he is currently in talks with electronics companies interested in licensing it. Innovega recently received funding from Darpa, the Pentagon's R&D arm, which plans to use iOptik as part of a project aimed at equipping troops with "super vision." Using iOptik lenses, soldiers could, for example, call up an overhead map of a battlefield while at the same time seeing the real thing right in front of them.
Inventor: Randy Sprague
Distance to Market: short ● ● ● ● ● long
HOW IT WORKS
Each iOptik contact lens has two embedded nanofilters. An outer filter lets in light from the outside world; an inner filter lets in images from projectors mounted on the arms of a pair of glasses. The combination gives the user an augmented-reality view.
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Personally, if I'm going to wear glasses, why bother putting contacts in as well? I thought the whole idea of the contact lenses was to do away with the external headgear...
Playing Devil's Advocate since 1978
"The only constant in the universe is change"
-Heraclitus of Ephesus 535 BC - 475 BC
@ codezero and Auroria
The contact lense is about much more than simply choosing what information to show.
One of the biggest challenges to displays so close to the eye is keeping it in focus at such a short focal distance, which gets more difficult the larger the field of vision you wish to exploit. Even more difficult is keeping both the display AND your normal field of vision in focus at the same time.
The equipment necessary to do this is VERY bulky. This contact lens allows the ambient light to be focused seperately from the display light, sending both sources fully focused to your eye, despite the huge difference in distances between the two light sources. Your eye cannot do this on its own.
This is the biggest advance this contact will provide, and quite honestly I find it amazing if it works as suggested.
On the other hand, Google's demo video of their concept is VERY misleading in that they show the entire field of view participating in their augmented display. In reality, their expectation is the glasses will show information in a very small portion of the top of your field of view, which will not be in focus while you look at the rest of the world.
In short, PopSci didnt do a very good job articulating the magnitude of advance this contact lense offeres over existing technologies.
AWESOME!!! i want a pair!
"religion is like a prison for the seekers of wisdom"
While it is always good to enhance our two eyes, lets always continue to grow and develop our inner third eye as the Anunnaki\Nephilim want us to do. ;)
The annunaki have taught me how to develop a fourth eye that is on back of my head. Soon when the singularity arrives we shall be able to obtain the ability to have a 100 eyes. And be like spiders.
"religion is like a prison for the seekers of wisdom"
I've always thought the next step with GPS would be augmented reality GPS, probably via translucent screens on the windshield so that the route you needed to take would be lit up or something. It could also be done through these glasses. What scares me is when text messages start popping up and stuff, we'll see fatalities due to distracted driving go through the roof.
This is awesome!!!
I like the ones I proposed, back in 2008
There was a time when, if you wore glasses at all, you could not me a military pilot. I wonder how they will view the need for glasses AND contact lenses for this system to work?
*BE, not "me". Sorry. We need a way to edit these posts.
It seems like the glasses "are" the media gateway, the portal. When you want your media, you wear your glasses. The contact lens is worn all the time - simply create "two in-focus words" - the real vs the virtual world. I just went to their website and they have a cool video that shows what happens when the eye can focus to simultaneously see your real-world plus your media. Check it out: http://www.innovega-inc.com/new-architecture.php
Games? Epic Fail. Here is why:
The world can be divided into two classes - those that wear contacts and those that don't. For those that don't, they can't be hassled with learning to put them in - it is a giant pain in the but for the uninitiated. Can't you just hear your pal saying, "Come-on, log-in. I want to play Halo 7" and your response is, "Hold on, I'm still trying to get these contacts in."
For those that already wear contacts, they'd have to take their everyday ones out to use these. Then they can't see what's beyond the glasses anyway.