Washington, Jan 18 : Always dreamt of having 'superhuman vision' like the Terminator or Bionic Woman? Well, your desire could soon be fulfilled.
Researchers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.
These lenses will act as visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.
"Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside," said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering.
"This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it's extremely promising," Parviz added.
There are many possible uses for virtual displays. Drivers or pilots could see a vehicle's speed projected onto the windshield. Video-game companies could use the contact lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual world without restricting their range of motion. And for communications, people on the go could surf the Internet on a midair virtual display screen that only they would be able to see.
"People may find all sorts of applications for it that we have not thought about. Our goal is to demonstrate the basic technology and make sure it works and that it's safe," said Parviz, who heads a multi-disciplinary UW group that is developing electronics for contact lenses.
The prototype device contains an electric circuit as well as red light-emitting diodes for a display, though it does not yet light up.
The revolutionary lenses were tested on rabbits for up to 20 minutes and the animals showed no adverse effects.
Parviz said that installing or removing the bionic eye would be as easy as popping a contact lens in or out, and once installed the wearer would barely know the gadget was there.
"There is a large area outside of the transparent part of the eye that we can use for placing instrumentation," Parviz said.
The finding has been presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' international conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems.