Sci-fi movies (like Minority Report) often show humans using electronic devices that project images and virtual graphics right before characters' eyes. Such scenes are no longer the stuff of fantasy, thanks to researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle. New Scientist reports that Babak Parviz has developed a contact lens that "harvests radio waves to power an LED ... paving the way for a new kind of display." The article suggests the lens could eventually project data transmitted from a mobile device.

Parviz's idea could make up for size limitations on current mobile devices (such as tiny cell phone screens), projecting images right into the eye via the lens. New Scientist quotes Parviz, saying his "hope is to create images that effectively float in front of the [eye] perhaps 50cm to 1m away." According to the article, the scientist typically studies ways to embed nanoscale electronics into things like plastic. Since he is also a contact lens wearer, he eventually thought to put the concepts together.

Two problems Parviz faces include installing circuitry into the contact lens and powering the device. Since a typical contact lens is too delicate for the temperatures or chemicals used to develop the circuitry, Parviz had to develop some components separately and fit them into the lens. The team is working to use a loop antenna to power the lens via radio waves and has already tested a prototype on rabbits.

Parviz envisions a future where the lens can be used to provide things like subtitles for conversing with foreign-language speakers, photograph captions, driving directions, and endless other possible uses.

Vision of the future
Researchers develop contact lenses with virtual graphics.