Contact Lenses With Built-In LCD Developed, Could Hit Market In Next Few Years

One small step for man, a giant leap toward technologically tricked-out contacts. The Center of Microsystems Technology recently announced it’s development of a tiny spherical LCD display, which can be embedded into contact lenses. This is, according to the company, “the first step toward fully pixelated contact lens displays.”

The devise has the potential for not only cosmetic uses but medical uses as well.

Unlike LED-based contact lens displays — which are limited to a few small pixels — the LCD-based technology allows the use of the entire display surface. The technology allows applications with a “broad range of pixel number and sizes … fully [covering the] contact lens acting as adaptable sunglasses, or a highly pixelated contact lens display.”

The first prototype contains a patterned dollar sign, reminiscent of the many cartoons in which characters sport dollar signs in their eyes. In the future, researchers envision “fully autonomous electronic contact lenses” embedded with this display. These could be used for medical purposes, such as controlling the light transmission toward the retina in cases of damaged irises. It could also be used for cosmetic purposes, such as an iris with a tunable color.

In the future, the display could also superimpose an image onto the user’s normal view.

Before mass production and consumer implementation, there are still “hurdles” to overcome.

Jelle De Smet, the main researched on the project, notes:


“Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one. Thus, the main challenge was to create a very thin, spherically curved substrate with active layers that could withstand the extreme molding processes. Moreover, since we had to use very thin polymer films, their influence on the smoothness of the display had to be studied in detail. By using new kinds of conductive polymers and integrating them into a smooth spherical cell, we were able to fabricate a new LCD-based contact lens display.”

Professor Herbert De Smet, who is supervising the display group, further comments: “Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working towards real applications, possibly available in only a few years time.”

What do you think about a contact lens that could superimpose images into the user’s view?