Computers are getting smaller and smaller every day, and many people can now do most of their online work via their phones. However within a few years devices could get much smaller – and we could have contact lenses that project our emails directly onto our eyeballs. A team from Washington University recently completed trials on a new generation of contact lenses that could enable people to read their emails and even augment their vision with information obtained from the internet. The circuits are made from layers of metal only a few nanometres thick and feature light-emitting diodes measuring one-third of a millimeter across.

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Of course, there are still factors to consider. While we all power our computers through the mains, there are currently no viable power sources to energize these next-gen contact lenses. The current prototype only works if it is within centimetres of a wireless battery. There are also the uncertain long-term effects be of wearing a lens made of electrical circuits on the surface of your eye. And how will the team cope with the scorching temperatures and toxic chemicals?

In the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, lead researcher Professor Babak Parviz said that the team’s next goal was to “incorporate some predetermined text in the contact lens”.

The team has successfully conducted animal trials, and they are moving to the next stage where they will incorporate hundreds of pixels into the lens. They believe they could even produce complex holographic imagery such as sat-nav directions or price comparison information when looking at a specific product.

The technology could be used in various fields, such as medical and home entertainment, but for now I’d be happy with a pair of glasses that do the same thing. “Some day maybe we’ll have full-fledged streaming in your contact lens,” said Parviz. “If we can make them as comfortable as normal contact lenses, you don’t feel you’re wearing them. In a sense, it’s the ultimate electronic gear that is totally unnoticeable.”

+ University of Washington

Via BBC News