Smart Contact Lenses – How Close Are We?

Smart Contact Lenses are undeniably going to be a part of our everyday life in the near future, but how near?

It is no secret that demand for specialised health-assistive technologies has been increasing drastically in recent years. One of the main reasons for this is because of the increasing popularity for wearable technology. Products such as smart watches allow us to track the number of steps we’ve walked and track our heart rate. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Pharmaceutical giant Novartis and Google teamed up back in 2014 to develop a smart lens that would measure glucose levels and assist those with eye problems. This technology would without a doubt help improve the quality of life for millions. However, Novartis backed off on human testing in 2016, stating it was too early for clinical trials.

Google are not the only tech corporation developing contact lenses. Samsung filed a patent back in 2016 for a contact lens with a display that can project images straight to the user’s eye. The lenses have a built in camera and sensors that are controlled by blinking. A product with these specifications would be designed for the general market, as the augmented reality features and the pop-up display within the user’s eyesight would be linked to their smartphone. Potentially rendering the smartphone obsolete?

Apple have met with augmented reality contact lens firm EPGL to discuss iOS for their augmented reality contact lens, which are currently in development. EPGL have already demonstrated the viability of integrating electronic circuitry into a silicone hydrogel contact lens, which is a step closer in projecting graphical images into a user’s field of view.

There is also a company developing a lens that enhances perfect 20/20 vision by three times. These lenses are called the Ocumetric Bionic Lens, created by Dr Gareth Webb. Although you have to go through an 8-minute surgery procedure to insert the lens, which would understandably not appeal to everybody.

So how close are we till these products are commercialised and available to the general population? Well, there’s no definitive answer for that right now. Smart Glasses, which are yet to hit mainstream interest, will be the main focus for technology companies for at least the next few years. So smart contact lenses coming to market may not be around the corner, but when they do, the potential from there is unlimited. It will make our everyday lives unimaginably different having augmented reality integrated with our vision.