Augmented Reality Contact Lens development will shrink smartphones to Feature Phone size

“Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working towards real possibly available in only a few years.”

Lead researcher Professor Herbert De Smet at the Ghent University Centre of Microsystems Technology in Belgium on the development on AR (Augmented Reality) Contact Lens

In a previous article AR Contact Lenses tested successfully on Rabbits I reported in on the development of AR (Augmented Reality) Contact lenses in November 2011 that could one day possibly be used to introduce AR (Augmented Reality) to smartphone users. Albeit the original prototype developed by the research of Babak Praviz of the University of Washington in Seattle and tested on Rabbits could only show one pixel, it’s potential as it relates to displaying important information from their much-loved device on the go has fired up the imaginations of many…..including yours truly.

Fast forward to December 2012, a year later! Now comes the long-awaited news of an improvement on the technology. A Research Team at the Ghent University Centre of Microsystems Technology in Belgium have developed a new prototype of the same AR Contact Lens that can utilize the entire screen to display numbers, letters and graphics.

Lead researcher Professor Herbert De Smet commented on the technological breakthrough, which was made possible by Flexible Polymer LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), quote: “Normally, flexible displays using liquid crystal cells are not designed to be formed into a new shape, especially not a spherical one. 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.”

The Technology, being low powered, no doubt is similar to that used in the IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide) LCD Displays developed by SHARP Electronics of Japan as reported in Kyoto University’s Water-powered Smartphone Batteries and SHARP’s IGZO power Efficient Screen for 2013. It opens up a whole range of possible applications:

  • Contact Lenses that can change Colour or Transparence based on the lighting level, protecting the wearer
  • Truly immersive AR (Augmented Reality) extension for Smartphones and Tablets, replacing the need to have a screen with fashionable eyewear.

The last possible application was a prediction of my article AR Contact Lenses tested successfully on Rabbits. Now that this research has clearly demonstrated it’s possible to have full screen Display, it may mean that as smartphones and Tablets get more popular, so too will Glasses and Contact Lenses as an accessory to have immersive AR on the smartphones. This as the technology can be easily scaled up to the size of regular Glasses and thus provide an alternative form factor to smartphone designs.

AR can’t truly be appreciated by looking at a large screen through the camera lenses to superimpose images on reality, the current means by which AR is used in smartphones.  In other words, smartphones may not be getting larger screens. Rather, the Smartphone of the future may simply be pair of Bluetooth-Connected Contacts or Glasses that connect to a dedicated Data-centric Mobile Phone sans the screen. No larger screen would be needed in the future as 5” is the largest that smartphone screens will go, albeit the resolution will get higher. In fact, the screen may disappear altogether!

It’s my premise that beyond 5”screen size, a result of intense completion by Google Android smartphones with the Apple iPhone, the phones become unwieldy, purse-unfriendly and worst of all, turns off women Gadgets. Shopaholic Females represent the largest potential untapped market for smartphones, which so far only Amazon’s managed to tap into with the Amazon Kindle line of Tablets as concluded form the analysis in Amazon is Legally Blonde as the Kindle Fire HD Upgrade is CEO Bezos’s Confessions of an Online Shopaholic.

It’s the prediction of this writer that 5” is the theoretical maximum size for a smartphone screen. After that you’re heading into Tablet and e-Reader Territory which starts at 7”. Processor speed’ll still increase (multicore Processors anyone?); so too will Pixel Density and resolution.

Battery life to support these developments will surely follow, but screen size has reached its zenith. An opinion I’d stated to a short hair Chemical Engineering friend on the SHARP Account once in the Canteen at ACCENT Marketing Ltd while musing on the future of smartphones and screen Technology.

When this tech Augmented Reality Tech is developed and scaled up to Eyeglasses, it’ll go mainstream with Americans who already wear contacts and Glasses to improve their vision and for reading purposes. The trend will then catch on with the Elite in society, Celebrities.

It’ll then find applications in the US Army, who already use HUD (Heads up Displays) in Jet Fighters, for which this’ll be a perfect replacement to deliver info to troops in Battle.Before too long, smartphone sizes will start to not only stop growing in size and be fixed at 5”, but the screen will eventually start to shrink and eventually disappear altogether.

In fact it’ll result in the future explosion of Mobile Computing by simply making the practical wearable computer fashionable, cheaper and aesthetically pleasing as a pair of glasses or contact lenses. Remember smartphone fans, the screen is the most expensive and power hungry component aside from the Processor when it comes to designing and manufacturing a smartphone. So ditching this breakable and expensive piece of smartphone real estate is an easy call for smartphone and even Tablet makers. It also represents a natural evolution of the smartphone as a concept-in-developement gadget.

Throw in the ability to match with your purse or favourite pair of shoes and commercial viability of a new wearable Computer with stylishly framed glasses or contacts as the screen and rapid adoption among Women is guaranteed. For many Men, though, it’s mainly about Gaming and may mark the revival of Video Game Consoles from the brink of extinction as note in How the Apple iPad killed Ultrabooks, Printing and the Mouse as the World Rediscovers Tablets. AR Contact Lenses or Glasses of this design would herald a breakthrough new peripheral for Console Gaming!

It’ll catch on with Women, still the largest untapped market for Gadgets, as women love stylish frames to go with their glasses. Bad news for Large Screen LCD Makers in the future for smartphones and Tablets, as this trend may eventually even surpass Tablets as Americans fall in love with wearable computers in the form of a pair of glasses or contacts.

Jamaicans who are already catching on to the smartphone trend Apple iPhone boosts Jamaican smartphone usage as BB goes Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and who may be shopping for smartphones as the perfect gift to upgrade themselves or their loved ones as noted in my article  How to transfer Phone Contacts and Data from your Blackberry to your Apple iPhone or Google Android smartphone or Tablet, will easily love this one; computers that are as wearable as a pair of glasses!

Great news for Developers of smaller USB Stick Computers such as the Raspberry Pi and FX’sGoogle Android Gingerbread Cotton Candy USB Stick computer as stated in $25 Raspberry Pi Mini USB PC and the $22 Aakash Tablet – Computer Adoption on a Budget and FX Tech debuts Cotton Candy – Sweet Android Gingerbread USB Stick Mini PC respectively; this’ll make the perfect Bluetooth-connectable accessory that’ll kick them ahead of the competition. With their already small footprint, these USB Stick Computers can function to provide the processing power for which these glasses or contact lenses are the wearable screens.

In short, this Breakthrough in Augmented Reality Contact Lens development will shrink smartphones to Feature Phone size, a space that USB Stick computers already occupy. Smartphones screen sizes coming Full Circle folks!

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Lindsworth is a Radio Frequency and Generator Maintenance Technician who has a knack for writing about his work, which is in the Telecoms Engineering Field. An inspired writer on themes as diverse as Autonomous Ants simulations, Power from Lightning and the current Tablet Wars.