Technology Research News is a wonderful site that reports on a wide range of scientific papers and studies that point toward possible future technologies. Yesterday, they cited a paper from the 21st IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanicals Systems (MEMS 2008). If you’re still with me, that’s great because this is really cool.
The researchers created contact lenses with embedded LED displays. They tested them on rabbits who wore them for 20 minutes at a stretch with no apparent adverse effects. This is a step that is hoped will lead to a heads-up display that will overlay digital images on the user’s field of view. Think of the mapping and data readouts that the Terminator robots see. (Yes, I’m watching the Sarah Connor Chronicles, and big kudos to Fox Network for putting up the past episodes for free on their Web site. I missed the pilot and was not able to tape it, but I could catch up with it on my computer.)
There are plenty of scary implications; if you think talking on a cell phone is distracting while you’re driving, imagine trying to read your RSS feeds and email during your morning drive! But I can see lots of excellent and productive applications, such as a display that is not affected when the passenger ahead of you on a flight in coach cranks his seat back all the way. And there are no privacy concerns about someone seeing your screen. And even with driving, a display linked to your GPS that overlays directions and alerts you to turns or traffic problems could improve driver awareness and safety.
I’d be willing to test these when they get to human subjects!