'Terminator'-styled Contact Lenses Could Let You Surf the Web Without a Monitor

'Terminator'-styled Contact Lenses Could Let You Surf the Web Without a Monitor

Nov 25, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger as The TerminatorWhile most of us who saw The Terminator were impressed by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brute cyborg strength, the part that always impressed me most as a kid was his crazy computer brain with the HUD that displayed info directly in front of his eyeball. How cool was it to be able to scan a room and have a constant display of vital information appear right in front of him like he were staring at a monitor?

What seemed like science fiction back in the ‘80s is now one step closer to reality. Engineers at the University of Washington are working on a new contact lens, one with features a working LED, which could be the first step into making the tech of The Terminator a reality.

According to the article at The Week, the new lenses are made of soft plastic, fitted with a sapphire LED at the center. The LED receives a signal from an external control device thanks to antennae wired around the outer edge of the eyepiece. The LED will flash off and on when the signal is activated.

Sounds really cool, but not very practical at this point – plus the idea of wearing a contact with a sapphire on it and antennae running around the outer edge doesn’t sound super comfortable. To combat this – and make it possible for the wearer to see the flashing LED – researchers added more layers of plastic to lens, creating distance between the eyeball and the electronics. With the extra layers, test rabbits were able to wear the lenses without receiving abrasions or thermal burns. The downside is that the plastic isn’t particularly breathable, making these lenses that can only be worn for a few minutes at a time. Maybe researchers will find a way around that moving forward…

While the tech doesn’t have any practical use at the moment (no one’s really dying to see a flashing light in their eye, apparently), researchers see this as the first step toward a new way of receiving hands-free information. The goal here is to have a lens designed in the next decade that allows the wearer to see text messages, social network content and get map directions beamed right in front of their peepers. We have to admit, that sounds pretty cool – even if we would most likely wear it while walking around telling everyone “I’ll be back.”

Here's some video showing off similar technology to be used on eyewear.

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