Samsung has been awarded a patent for a ‘smart’ contact lens.
The Korean patent includes mention of Augmented Reality (AR) and the control methods which will be used. This isn’t just about putting data right onto the lens, it is about a contact lens which can both receive and transmit information. The smart contact lens includes a display, camera and antenna.
Samsung isn’t the only company to be thinking about smart contact lenses. Google has been working on a project since 2014 – when it announced a smart contact lens project specifically aimed at measuring glucose levels in tears as a way to help manage diabetes.
The project has since become part of Verily, a health focussed company that sits under Alphabet – the parent company Google set up last year.
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All seeing eye
Samsung seems to have a much broader set of uses in mind for its smart contact lens than Google, with an ambition to provide an augmented reality style view on the world. The lens has sensors which can detect blinking and eye movement – which would allow it to be controlled directly by the eye.
Samsung has also trademarked the name ‘Gear Blink’ in the US and South Korea. It is notable though, that the lens would need to be connected to a smartphone in order to work properly.
In many ways Samsung is taking the idea of Google Glass to the next step, and producing a less obtrusive way of providing information direct to the user without the need for a separate screen.
A deep dive on AR
Internet of Business asked James Moar, senior analyst at Juniper Research for a view on the concept of smart contact lenses and Samsung’s approach.
He told us: “The capabilities of the lenses seem to be similar to current-generation smart glasses, offering HUD display capabilities and camera-related functionalities, but which is likely to require a close connection to another device to process the data. While this can theoretically tap into a range of smart glasses uses in the workplace, the requirement for an external processing device to be connected (likely via Bluetooth) limits the lens’ utility, as well as lending itself to being lost and not able to be shared. In industries where hands-free information is most useful (field services, logistics, healthcare professionals), these are concerns which may seriously limit device deployment.
“For consumers, they are certainly less obtrusive, but probably no more useful, than smart glasses. The basic value equation for consumers with these devices is currently “is it worth buying these so that I don’t have to take my phone out of my pocket?” This is particularly pertinent for these lenses as they will probably have to have a smartphone in proximity in order to do any processing at all. The actual benefits of the device at this stage to the average consumer appear to be quite minimal.
“Depending on the extent of the devices’ AR capabilities (probably limited because of the single camera), the lenses could be useful for a range of AR-based manuals, which need the hands-free element to make them most efficient. This is already being developed for smartphones by companies like Hyundai. With the contact lens, this becomes even more intuitive. But it still runs into the value question – is it worth buying the lenses for the one-off complex fixes which lend themselves most readily to consumers.”
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