It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but researchers are working on chip-enabled contact lenses that display images to the users and monitor bodily functions.

Today’s best contact lenses are moisture-rich and comfy—the fanciest ones can even be worn for weeks at a time. But the contact lenses of the future could do a lot more than just improve your vision. We may soon see contact lenses that display images.

Researchers from the University of Washington Aalto University in Finland have been working on contact lenses that display images and that provide data about a user’s surroundings and even monitor health.

In the study, the researchers implanted a transparent silicon chip with a one-pixel display onto a lens. The system employed an LED with an integrated circuit, which served as both a power source and a controller for the device.

When placed onto the retina, the LED light makes the display appear about 1 meter away from the eye. The device’s position is optimized for ideal retinal focus.

contact lenses that display imagesContact lenses that display images – computers of the future? 

“We have provided the first proof-of-concept technology demonstrations for producing multipixel and in-focus images using a contact lens by producing multipixel micro-LED array chips on transparent substrates and micrometer-scale Fresnel lenses that can be integrated into a contact lens,” the team said in a recent article published in the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.

Over the past several years, the team has successfully demonstrated the system using red and blue LED displays. The next step will be green displays and eventually multi-color.

The contact lenses that display images have been tested on trials with rabbits. Before it is ready for human use, the power supply will need to be improved. A new type of plastic may also need to be used; the current material is not porous enough to supply sufficient oxygen to the cornea.

Eventually, these kinds of chip-equipped contact lenses that display images could work the way smartphones do today, by providing directions and information about landmarks.

Researchers think that the contact lenses that display images could also track blood pressure and other bodily functions.

Rebecca Kutzer-Rice writes for

Thank you Rebecca for contributing information on new and improving technology like contact lenses that display images.