Technology

Be Like Arnold, See Like Arnold

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terminator

Imagine browsing online, but without a screen. The images and text would just sit suspended in front of you in midair. Mad futuristic vision? Nope.

Researchers at University of Washington in Seattle have developed a very early prototype of contact lenses that could allow the wearer to see a virtual world around him or get simple data, like the odometer reading on their car or driving directions as a heads up display. The effect from the electronic circuit embedded lenses would be sort of like the Terminator's vision. The lenses will use LEDs to generate the images, and though the lenses sit on the surface of the eye, the image would appear to float.

Just one small perk, in addition to ease of stalking and killing your enemies: Anyone who has ever worked on a laptop on an airplane or in a coffee shop should appreciate the privacy implications of the lenses–only you can see your data or images.

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  1. Just what the world needs, people watching porn in their contact lenses while driving. We’ll need a “both hands on the wheel” law next.

  2. The lenses will use LEDs to generate the images, and though the lenses sit on the surface of the eye, the image would appear to float.

    I don’t see how that’s possible. Anything sitting the surface of the eye, couldn’t form a crisp image that you could focus on. It would just be a diffuse blob of light.

  3. This is just a stepping stone. Before you know it, we’ll all have ports in our heads that we can plug a computer right into. Maybe then someone could come up with a way for humans to generate electricity for all those computers out there…

  4. Let me know when the government has a lens that can peer into my brain.

  5. I don’t see how that’s possible. Anything sitting the surface of the eye, couldn’t form a crisp image that you could focus on. It would just be a diffuse blob of light.

    You could focus the lens to make it all work, but how could you see reality if the lens is focused that way? Adjustable focus contact lenses?

    Is there an optometrist in the house?

  6. Wouldn’t this essentially make it impossible to proctor any test in any subject ever again, without using wireless signal jamming equipment?

    They could market these as the “Perfect Test Score Lenses”.

  7. Ok ok… so is this one the *real* mark of the beast?

  8. What did the rabbits get to watch?

  9. Wouldn’t glasses be more comfy and closer to production (I’m thinking IHADSS type glasses only without the big-ass helmet).

  10. In addition to cheating on tests, you could also potentially use these to feed yourself talking points to try to score with chicks.

  11. Maybe then someone could come up with a way for humans to generate electricity for all those computers out there…

    Gengineering, electric eel genes, the recently decoded human genome, hmmm.

    I’ll be in the lab.

  12. Warren,

    Good point. Also, wouldn’t the contacts in both eyes have to be displaying the exact same image at the same time in order for the brain to interpret it properly? Would there be a Wi-Fi antenna in the lens or something to enable them to coordinate with each other?

    I could see this working for eyeglasses, but the contacts seem much less feasible.

  13. The rabbits watch Watership Down over and over. Leading to many Art Garfunkel induced rabbit suicides.

  14. Also sending wifi texts to your buddies, business meetings would be pretty interesting. The ability to google stuff on the internet in your head would be pretty cool.

    Then you add on stuff like this implantable camera and you are going to have a hell of a time keeping cameras out of courtrooms and other places people don’t like them to be.

    If you can record a movie into your brain as you are watching it, does it become a copy or a very accurate memory?

  15. Fluffy,

    Come on, that’s the perfect contact lens song!

    Bright eyes,
    Burning like fire.
    Bright eyes,
    How can you close and fail?
    How can the light that burned so brightly
    Suddenly burn so pale?
    Bright eyes.

  16. “Be Like Arnold, See Like Arnold”

    Wha’choo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?

  17. Snow Crash anyone?

  18. Don’t you dare think of listening to music and humming it to yourself. We can sue you for that.

  19. I don’t see how that’s possible. Anything sitting the surface of the eye, couldn’t form a crisp image that you could focus on. It would just be a diffuse blob of light.

    It is just an active, rather than passive, lens. It is able to create the light it sends to the retina rather than simply “resending”, if you will, the light it receives from the outside world. The eye doesn’t need to focus on the lens any more with an active lens than with a passive one – it focuses at the distance the object is supposed to be.

  20. Oh man. Just think of the hacks you could pull on buddies with this.

  21. Sage,

    Exactly! I always figured that fighting the drug war is a waste of time since eventually we’ll have no need for chemicals, we’ll just put a chip in our brain. Sooo much better.

  22. Snow Crash anyone?

    Neal Stephenson is one of the better sci-fi prophets of recent years.

  23. So I’ll be able to read lying down? And with my eyes closed? Cool.

  24. Even better, jp – You’ll be able to tell your boss that you were working lying down with your eyes closed.

    As long as you don’t snore.

  25. Damn. Here I had expensive surgery to not need contacts only to want them. On the plus side, I never have to watch another lame-ass PowerPoint presentation ever again. I guess it balances out.

  26. Just saw it on another site. Heath Ledger RIP

  27. Fluffy:
    Wouldn’t this essentially make it impossible to proctor any test in any subject ever again, without using wireless signal jamming equipment?

    An interesting application you bring up…I wonder if it wouldn’t require that the tests change…test problem solving over recall…creativity over memorization…in these tests, the contact lens is just another tool…like a pencil…or google

  28. Thanks for the neat find. I think I’ve finally figured out what Reason wants to be when it gets older: a slightly more libertarian, squarer version of BoingBoing. Wake me when you start looking behind the headlines.

  29. Good point. Also, wouldn’t the contacts in both eyes have to be displaying the exact same image at the same time in order for the brain to interpret it properly?

    Nah, when you look through a microscope the best way is to keep both eyes open. You just pay attention to what’s coming in one. Same with telescopes or rifle scopes. Both eyes open.

  30. Hacking your buddy’s lenses would be infinitely amusing.

    Hopefully these things will eventually be able to handle images as well as text – imagine the fun of sending an image Jesus to follow Mike Huckabee everywhere he goes, wagging a finger reproachfully.

    Or maybe sending goatse to Giuliani’s lenses. Forever.

  31. J sub D,

    Well, yeah, but you usually aren’t looking at anything else at the same time as you’re looking through a telescope. I thought the idea of this thing was that you could see everything you normally could plus the stuff that the contact was displaying. I don’t like the idea of having to cut my field of vision in half to use this thing, or getting annoyed by the contact display in one eye while I’m trying to use both my eyes to view my surroundings.

  32. Let me know when the government has a lens that can peer into my brain.

    No.

  33. Fluffy,

    But how do you keep them from just removing the contact lens?

  34. This technology is nowhere near primetime. The display itself isn’t even ready – all they’ve done is shown that they can make a wearable lens with the circuit in the lens substrate – they haven’t even added any functional LEDs yet, let alone the hundreds of thousands necessary to make a useful display.

  35. Ahhh. Lonewacko changes his sign on once again, eluding the filter.

    Tell you what, how ’bout we let you know when your paranoid bullshit has an audience here, and you stay the f*ck away ’til then, m’kay? This’ll scare you away – a MexicanWithAGun!

    Back OT, since this is one of Katherine’s threads, I think the relevant question is: how will the new contact lenses help you kill and eat strange animals?

  36. fucking. awesome.

  37. Ahhh. Lonewacko changes his sign on once again, eluding the filter.

    It’s the new, improved LoneWackoSignOn “Now With Irony!”

  38. “But how do you keep them from just removing the contact lens?”

    Superglue. Lots and lots of Superglue….

  39. These lenses are pretty much exactly the same as those described in Vernor Vinge’s Science Fiction novel “Rainbows End”.

  40. Vernor Vinge’s latest sci-fi novel, Rainbow’s Edge, posits a near-future world where everyone wears such contact lens devices. He explores the ramifications pretty interestingly; I would recommend it.

  41. Is there an optometrist in the house?

    Where’s Thoreau? Isn’t he an expert in optics or something related?

  42. crimethink,

    First, congrats on winning the thread in the first post.

    Second, since there’s a second refractive element in the eye (the lens, between the cornea and retina) they could probably put something on the cornea for the lens to image onto the retina.

    Now, the lens wouldn’t form a sharp image of whatever is on the cornea, given the short distance, but I wonder if they could work it out so that whatever appears on the cornea is some distorted thing that shows up sharp on the retina. Since the mapping from object to image is linear, I suspect they could invert this.

    Hmm, I should see if any students in my department need a senior project working on the theory of this…

  43. Basically, if the distorted image formed on the retina is a linear transformation of the object placed on the cornea, then you should be able to invert that linear transformation (if it’s invertible, and I think it would be) and figure out what needs to be on the cornea to form a given image at the retina.

  44. Thinking more about it: The image on the retina would be a linear superposition of images due to different objects on the cornea. The only way to get a zero intensity image on the retina is to have nothing on the cornea. In mathematical jargon, the null space has dimension zero. So it ought to be invertible. There is the issue of it being one-to-one, but by pixellating everything we can make it hold true, and take the limit of zero pixel size.

    There might be some funny issues with finite aperture size amplifying noise, so the inverse problem might be ill-posed, but as long as we accept limits to resolution it should work.

  45. thoreau,

    I guess the problem would be, whether the image shows up sharp on the retina is going to depend on where the lens is focusing…so unless the contacts can somehow figure that out, you’re going to have to focus at a certain distance in order to see the displayed image clearly. And if you’re not focusing the right distance, it wouldn’t appear too near or too far away, it would just look blurry.

    I don’t see (npi) why this would be any better than eyeglasses with displays on both lenses.

  46. Right, but you could always do the focusing yourself. There’s an image in front of you, and you pay attention to that when you want to use your contact lens computer.

  47. Now, you could ask how fault-tolerant this would be, what the depth of field would be, etc. I think depth of field would be an issue, but that just means you’d have to pay attention and focus carefully.

    Of course, when the eye strain gives you problems down the road, Dave W. will be there to sue.

    I think this is a fascinating imaging system to study. If I didn’t have so many other research projects to procrastinate from I’d add this to the list.

  48. Couldn’t the lenses reproduce a light pattern exactly like the light that would hit your eye from an object? The lenses are curved so they could project light from any angle your eye would normally receive light from. I must be missing something because it seems pretty straight forward to me. Of course describing it mathematically is a different matter

  49. I don’t see how that’s possible. Anything sitting the surface of the eye, couldn’t form a crisp image that you could focus on. It would just be a diffuse blob of light.

    See this:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floater

  50. I thought about it some more, and superpositions of blobs wouldn’t work because the blobs would all add with positive intensity. You couldn’t get cancellation.

  51. Back OT, since this is one of Katherine’s threads, I think the relevant question is: how will the new contact lenses help you kill and eat strange animals?

    That’s easy. Hack up a javascript that combines GPS navigational data with the signals from research animals’ radio collars. Then a graphical display through the contacts will let the tagged animal lead you to its fellow entrees animals.

  52. New Cassandra,

    Your lens doesn’t know if the light hitting it is from ten feet away or 1 millimeter. If light from an object 10 feet away strikes the lens and covers x area and at y angle(s)the contact could just copy that patten and angle.

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