Recall we reported last year on Google’s expected attempt to produce drones for the delivery of first aid materials (water, antibiotics, an EpiPen and the like) to those facing medical emergencies. Many envisioned, however, that this was really a plot to break into the Amazon market for the speedy delivery of goods to consumers - Amazon Same-Day Prime? Rumor has it Google may now be trying to patent contact lenses that can overlay data into your field of vision. Why? To measure glucose levels for diabetic patients, of course. It causes us to wonder if Google might have a strategy of bringing new technology to market using medically-necessary reasoning to ease their way to initial consumer approval and eventually wide-range acceptance. While Samsung may beat them to the punch this time, it looks like we are truly facing a world where humans will be able to browse the internet by merely blinking.
What is Samsung’s new sci-fi vision for our future? Not just smart jewelry (watches, rings, etc.) but smart implants. Earlier this year, Samsung filed an application for a patent for a contact lens that can overlay internet search results onto your field of vision and discreetly take photos. The lens will project images directly into the user’s eye. It can also connect wirelessly to a smartphone and snap photographs when the user blinks. This is all part of the progressive invention of the flexible organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen. Smartphone screens will soon be able to be rolled up into a case the size of a tube of lipstick and put in your pocket. Before that, however, they may be able to be bathed in solution and popped into your eye.
“Augmented reality,” is the technical name. It is the idea of overlaying information into your field of vision. We have already adapted to this in many forms and fashions. Do any of you have a vehicle where your speed is projected onto your windshield just above the steering wheel? This is a form of augmented reality as well. Now imagine you are sitting at a café in France, looking at a menu. As you look at a word in French on the menu, your smart lens may automatically generate the English translation for the word. You may also ask your phone how high that particular café is ranked on TripAdvisor and the rankings will be laid right into your field of vision, just look down to scroll. You may also be able to ask your lens how to say “Two coffees, please” in French and have your smartphone sitting on the table spit out the phonetics.
When Google tried to implement a similar type of always-on, augmented reality eyewear with its Google Glass in 2013, it was not received well by the public. One reported reason was the fact that many found the idea that Google Glass wearers could be walking around with the constant ability to photograph what they see to be “creepy.” Perhaps with the pervasive spread of smartphones in the hand of virtually every person you pass walking the streets of a busy city, which—with the simple click of a button—have the same ability, the “creepy” factor has waned. Still, the sight of someone wearing Google Glass is not common for a reason. Many found the glasses made them appear unsightly and alienated. Samsung referred to this phenomenon as an “insufficient” augmented vision reality experience. Hence the focus on a discreet, almost imperceptible contact lens.
Google previously disclosed ambitions to implement a smart contact lens similar to the one Samsung is purportedly pursuing—not for the obvious reason of furthering human dependence on augmented reality apps and internet searches—but, rather, to provide glucose levels for diabetics. However, if that’s what gets users, who may have at first hesitated to take such a sci-fi step, to start wearing this likely addictive device, Google may be onto something. It will be interesting to see the litigation that may develop.
What do you think of this new smart lens? Do you like the idea that you can walk, work, and live in such an information-rich, augmented reality or are you already raising your cane and cursing it?