The New York Times named Google’s computer glasses the best invention of 2012; however, a new invention may one day dethrone the wearable, interactive headgear. Researchers from the University of Ghent have developed a contact lens that has the ability to display text messages. While the technology is still in its primitive form, the new invention may offer not only a way to receive visual information, but may offer new treatment methods concerning light restriction for individuals with damaged irises or other light-sensitive eye issues.
Unlike other attempts at creating a contact lens with a visual display, the Ghent team, headed up by Jelle De Smet, found a way to create a curved LCD screen within the lens itself, rather than create one with embedded LED technology. This new approach allows the display to be larger, indicates Discovery News.
“Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one. Thus, the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extreme molding processes,” said Jelle De Smet in a press release. “Moreover, since we had to use very thin polymer films, their influence on the smoothness of the display had to be studied in detail. By using new kinds of conductive polymers and integrating them into a smooth spherical cell, we were able to fabricate a new LCD-based contact lens display.”
While the micro-technology could one day offer a means to receive messages without the need of a handheld device, consumers would still be faced with a number of issues regarding lens safety.
According to Contact Lens Safety, contacts are one of the safest forms of visual correction; however, if not worn properly they can cause serious side-effects.
Side-effects of improper contact use
The most serious consequence of improper contact use is that of corneal infection which can often cause corneal ulcers. If left untreated, a corneal infection can result in blindness, and most experts agree it is not necessary to have a scratch on the eye itself in order to develop an infection.
“Bacterial infections are more common than fungal infections, and the rarest infection occurs with some amoebae. Some bacterial infections are extremely rapid and can cause blindness–sometimes within as little as 24 hours if not diagnosed and treated promptly,” states Contact Lens Safety. “Symptoms of infection often include severe pain, redness, mucus discharge, and blurred vision, and often affects one eye only. The best way to determine whether your symptoms are due to an infection or a less severe problem is to consult your eye doctor as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms.”
To prevent serious eye infections, contact lenses should be properly cleaned and only worn for their approved amount of time. Wearing contacts for too long increases the risk for an eye infection, as does sleeping in contacts. According to research, people who sleep with their contacts in have 5 times the risk of an eye infection compared to individuals who wear them as recommended.