You may soon be able to cross one more prediction of science fiction off the list. Sony has just filed a patent application for a smart contact lens that can not only record video and images but play them back for you as well. The patent even suggests that the video and images would be stored directly in the contact lens itself, with the option to download the images and movies to a smart phone. That’s what separates the Sony patent from one recently obtained by Samsung in South Korea for a similar device. The Samsung lens doesn’t feature on-board storage.
The patent hasn’t been approved yet, but it describes describes the lens as being capable of taking photos using eyeblinks as a trigger. It’s supposed to be able to tell the difference between an autonomic eye blink and one you meant to do consciously. The playback display is to be controlled by what they describe as a “tilt sensor”. The lens may even feature aperture control, autofocus and image stabilization to address the blur caused by the eyeball’s motion.
“The contact lens according to each embodiment of the present disclosure has an image pickup function and performs predetermined image pickup control in accordance with blinking or the like of a user,” Sony’s patent application reads. “This makes it possible to make an intelligent contact lens, thereby remarkably improving usability.”
The ramifications of this are astounding. We’ve been seeing data overlays in the points of view of robots, cyborgs and superheroes in the cinema for decades, and it’s been a feature of science fiction books for decades before that. It’s astounding to think that this Tony Stark style of technology may actually be on its way. This is all pretty theoretical stuff at this point, though. It may be a decade before anything like this is available at the consumer level. We’re only just now getting the Occulus Rift, (it’s being sold in limited quantities at Best Buy starting on May 7) and this is an order of magnitude more challenging a project.
The priority date of Sony’s patent US20160097940 is May 2, 2013. This indicates that they have already been working on this for a quite a while.