iOptik augmented reality contact lens prototype to be unveiled at CES


January 6, 2014

Embedded in the contact lens are micro-components that enable the user to focus on near-eye images

Embedded in the contact lens are micro-components that enable the user to focus on near-eye images

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Though most of the attention surrounding the race to commercialize connected eyewear has focused on Google Glass, a lesser known player has been quietly toiling away. At CES this week, Washington-based company Innovega will be showcasing its first fully-functioning prototypes of iOptik, an augmented reality system which projects a heads-up display onto contact lenses.

We first learned of Innovega's vision for augmented reality back in 2012 when the company received a contract from DARPA to develop the iOptik prototype for the battlefield. Though it was clear that the technology could serve many uses outside of the military, the company's progress in gearing it towards mainstream applications has caught our attention once again.

Before we get too excited, the iOptik system does not offer a solution for potential stigma attached to the less-than-discreet Google Glass, as it too requires a pair of glasses to function. Acting as a micro-display, the glasses project a picture onto the contact lens, which works as a filter to separate the real-world from the digital environment and then interlaces them into the one image.

According to the company, the technology enables users to focus on objects right in front of their eyes and in the distance simultaneously, offering an alternative solution to traditional near-eye displays which create the illusion of an object in the distance so as not to hinder regular vision.

Embedded in the contact lenses are micro-components that enable the user to focus on near-eye images. Light projected by the display (glasses) passes through the center of the pupil and then works with the eye's regular optics to focus the display on the retina, while light from the real-life environment reaches the retina via an outer filter. This creates two separate images on the retina which are then superimposed to create one integrated image, or augmented reality.

At present, iOptik is not for sale as it still requires clearance from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in the US. Innovega CEO Stephen Wiley told CNET that this application may come in late 2014 or early 2015, with the company already in talks with potential business partners to look at refining the product for the consumer market.

"We've talked to all of them, from Oakleys to the Lenovos and Electronic Arts," he said. "One sees it as electronic sunglasses. Another sees it as what comes after the tablet."

You can get an idea of Innovega's vision for iOptik and the future of augmented reality in the video below.

Source: Innovega

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

I t will be these and such devices that will responsable for jumps in evolution in the human brain. The filling up of the brain of information. Medicen alone cannot tailor make a bigger brain ,merly give the body its in a better advantage.


I am so tired of videos like this, showing what it "could do 10 years from now" but not actually showing what it IS doing. I could make a video of a flying house but that means nothing,

What is the resolution?

How does it achieve head/eye tracking to correctly overlay visuals?

Too many unanswered questions for this to be a trusted article or even a trusted company, nothing was answered and nothing was ACTUALLY demonstrated.

Joshua Nelson

A little better than 'vapourware' at present, but a long way to go! I worry about the huge safety concerns that need to be addressed before these and other proposed devices are sold. Ever-increasing numbers of crashes linked to 'texxxting' and in-car phone use are bad enough, but can you imagine 'Bubba' driving his SUV down the highway with a pocketed storage device full of porn and these contact lenses?

The Skud

Oh great, I'll be able to watch advertising right on my face, instead of those pesky billboards and shop signs. These seem McNoying I don't McWantem.

Dave B13

All fine and dandy until the little hidden hooks pop out and it fuses itself to your eye, Mr. Borg.

Mike Barnett

Once this product and Google Glass are in wide distribution I wonder on average how many people will be killed because they were too busy with their devices than being aware of their surroundings? Guys alone driving while watching porn will be responsible for over half of the accidents.

Nelson Chick

To all the safety naysayers: how many accidents will be prevented because the glasses will detect and highlight 1)that kid who just darted out in front of you or 2)the fact that you physically can't make that turn at your current speed or 3)that car that you're approaching know, the one on the moonless night without any lights on? yeah, that one.

Bryan Paschke

@Bryan Paschke - They're AR contact lenses, not RADAR for crying out loud. These seem to be vapor anyhow, but even if they were available today, there would be a greater threat to safety overall than accident "prevention" as you describe. Your average person is disconnected from reality enough as it is just with smartphones. Not all technology == the betterment of mankind

Rich Dresden

An amazing development to pack a display into such a small device - you can see from the second part of the video that the display resolution and sharpness is a tad compromised due to the feat of engineering - that of course will improve in time.

Bryan is right that once these technologies are joined up and speaking to our car radar/IR cameras etc they have the potential to improve safety - from the simple like shifting sat-nav directions and in-car dials onto the field of view, reducing the need to look anywhere but on the road ahead to the advanced like giving warning of accidents ahead, flagging up of obstacles and hazards at night etc.

Would like to see a bit more about their proposed interface to these devices - certainly one is NOT going to go poking or clicking their eyeball!

Graham Ferguson

I knew this was gonna be the next step! After this there will be chips in our brains! Has anyone else read this book titled "Feed" by M. T. Anderson? This won't end pretty but I want it anyway!!

Everdeep Naga

Contacts are annoying enough to wear, I can see alot of wasted money with these, unless you want to spy on somebody and need discreet info.

June Blair

First - driving safety. You're thinking too small. In 15 years, you won't be driving a car at all in many environments. In 25, you'll probably own a cabin instead - the wheels and engine will come pick it up, Uber style. Owning that part will be a luxury. In the near term, we know that a heads up display (HUD), which allows a driver to change their depth of focus instead of looking away from the road, is superior to the alternative. Your concerns in this area are overblown unless some idiot is trying to watch TV or a video call on their HUD while driving (this already happens in some cars and it hasn't caused the apocalypse).

Second - if you actually watched the whole video, you would know they did show the current display.

Third - the glasses version is feasible now. The contact lens version really won't work in HD until it's projecting onto the retina, or directly stimulating it. You can get that with Glyph right now, but it's not a transparent overlay.

Ian Armstrong
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