New Scientist article recently reported that University of Washington researchers are edging closer to perfecting a contact lens able to project full-color images onto the wearer's retina. Today, prototypes only have red and blue miniature LEDs. Researchers need to find a way to bring in green in order to achieve full color output. Data and electricity arrive via a near-field antenna loop, much like the technology used in PayPass cards. In the lab, this look is taped to the face and wired to a belt pack, but I would expect that higher power versions might be worn as a necklace or over the ear, perhaps integrated into a phone headset. The end result would be an augmented reality system able to overlay data about the world directly onto the wearer's regular field of view
Interestingly, this heads-up display technology (which includes 3D viewing potential) was not the main focus of the New Scientist article. Rather, the focus was on Sensimed's Triggerfish Sensor. Triggerfish is the first commercial application of this contact lens technology, but its purpose is to detect changes in the cornea's curvature that would signal a glaucoma condition. The UW team also adapted the lens to detect glucose levers for those with diabetes. Interestingly, though, by the time I found the story on the PlanetDTV blog, all trace of health applications had been wiped from the topic. Apparently, the media is more interested in having a cyborg-like way to find the nearest Starbucks (a la Wikitude on smartphones) than improving public health.