This battery-powered contact lens offers a glimpse into a disconcerting future

The Optics Department at IMT Atlantique has teamed up with the Flexible Electronics Department at the Centre Microélectronique de Provence Georges Charpak to design the first standalone contact lens powered by a flexible micro-battery. 

The French engineering school unveiled the first autonomous contact lens with a tiny flexible battery earlier this year. The micro-battery is strong enough to power an LED light source continuously for several hours, while fitting snugly inside a contact lens.

The wireless lens is already providing a vision of the future to one professor at IMT Atlantique.

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“This first project is part of a larger and very ambitious project aimed at creating a new generation of oculometers linked to the emergence of augmented reality helmets that have given rise to new uses (man-machine interfaces, cognitive load analysis, etc),” said IMT Atlantique Optics Department Professor Jean-Louis de Bougrenet de la Tocnaye.

“This opens up huge markets, while at the same time imposing new constraints on precision and integration”.

The lenses could be used to offer augmented reality features to their wearer. IMT Atlantique is already developing functions, such as RF communication that would use the battery to wirelessly transmit data to the lens and back. Basically, Google Glass without so much ridicule.

The school is also working on optical detection of gaze direction to allow the lenses to follow your line of sight and use that data to enhance your experience and what you see in that moment.

IMT Atlantique claims that these functions could contribute to everything from surgical assistance in the healthcare sector to assisting users when they’re behind the wheel of a car. There has apparently even been interest in the technology from Microsoft and, of course, the US military.

The department plans to use graphene-based flexible electronics in the future to incorporate more transparent materials into the contact lenses. It will also be collaborating with other groups to identify wider uses for the technology.

Notably, IMT Atlantique will be teaming up with the Institut de la Vision in Paris to create a visual assistance device for people with sight difficulties in the near future.

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