AR Meets Vision: The Next Frontier in Wearable Technology

Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

A cohort of researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) has put forth a concept for AR-enabled contact lenses that can enable navigation in the real world.

A new concept for augmented reality-based contact lenses proposed by researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) brings together wearable technology and AR like never before. 

The breakthrough research, led by Professor Im Doo Jung at UNIST and Dr Seung Kwon Seol from the Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) overcomes the existing limitations of AR devices in the current state—including bulkiness, affordability, and accessibility. The innovation allows a user to wear the AR device as they would wear a contact lens—directly on the cornea. 

When it comes to implementing augmented reality (AR) with smart contact lenses, a key challenge that needs overcoming is to somehow develop displays that can be driven with low power. The researchers find that electrochromic (EC) displays are a type of display that can change color when a small electric charge is applied to them. They are energy-efficient and don’t require a lot of power to operate.

For the development of electrochromic displays, the researchers opted for Prussian blue (PB)—a type of material that can be used in EC displays for smart contact lenses. PB has a lot of features that deem it fit for use, including its ability to change color uniformly, quickly, and with high contrast—a noteworthy requirement for displays. Besides this, PB is environmentally friendly and cost-competitive to synthesize. 

The researchers have found that Prussian blue material can be used in electrochromic displays for smart contact lenses to display information to the wearer in a way that is power-efficient and environmentally friendly. 

With the help of a navigation function integrated within the smart contact lens, the researchers were able to send GPS coordinates to users in real-time to find directions. 

The findings of the research have been published in the journal Advanced Science. 

Advancements in AR-enabled contact lenses have the potential to greatly improve daily life by enhancing the way we navigate and interact with the world around us. With ongoing research and advancements, we can expect to see more innovative uses for AR-enabled contact lenses in the future, ultimately leading to a more seamless and integrated digital and physical world.

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