Sony is looking to buy the patent for a contact lens capable of recording video when the user blinks their eye, and send the recording to a wireless device such as a smartphone or a tablet. The lens will have the feature to differentiate between a normal blink and a blink meant to capture recording. Other features include optical image stabilization, zoom, aperture control, focus and stability to take precise and detailed shots. The images captured by the lens can also be saved internally before being transmitted wirelessly.
The lens will also have the capability to keep track of every time the user closes his eyelids while recording so that the resulting black screens can be deleted later on. To playback the video, users would perform a preset of actions relating to the pattern of eye movements which should be different from blinking as blinking starts and stops eye recording feature. The patent stated, “For example, the operation input is such that the user presses an end of the eyelid two times in a state in which the eyelid is closed.”
Sony is not the first company to order a patent for smart contact lens. Google, following the revolutionary idea of Google Glass, which was one of the first eyewear technology capable of shooting videos and taking pictures, applied for a patent for a contact lens camera back in 2014. Sony’s contact lens will have more features than Google’s proposed idea. The patent for Sony’s contact lens was filed in February 2014, but is yet to be reviewed.
Google’s contact lens, on the other hand, will barely have any electronics, just enough to measure blood glucose levels and to transmit the data to a paired device, making it quite useful for diabetic patients.
Problems With This Kind Of Technology
This is a good idea but it has its downsides as well. One is that it has ethical problems. It could be a cause of concern as it may invade other people’s privacy. Most people won’t know that they are being recorded or that their pictures are being taken. Those pictures could end up in the wrong hands and may result in some unpleasant situations.
There is also a matter of security as the videos and pictures taken could be later used for blackmail or if they were somehow involved in an act of terrorism, they could be later subpoenaed to disclose the footage as evidence.
Many theaters and museums have a rule of no photographs, this device would be in direct violation of those rules and the violator will have to face punishment in case they broke the rules.
Contact lenses can become uncomfortable after wearing them for prolonged periods. Eyes can become watery, red, swollen and itchy in some cases. Some people are allergic to dust, so in areas where there are a lot of dust particles in the air, contact lenses can become even more difficult to wear. There’s also the nuisance of constantly cleaning the lens so the pictures being shot don’t become blurry or grainy.
Last but certainly not the least, is the cost issue. Such equipment, with these many features in such a small size and having many small intricate parts, will likely be very costly for a normal user.
One of the main reasons for the failure of Google Glass was the issue of security and privacy, since it had the ability to discretely record other people without getting their consent or without them knowing. Sony’s proposed contact lens will be even worse due to its small size and inconspicuousness.
Other techniques such as Intraocular Lens Implant (IOL) have far more significant use. IOL is a synthetic, artificial lens placed inside eyes to replace the natural vision of people who have undergone cataract surgery. When the cataract is removed, the eye loses its natural ability to focus light and use of glasses and lenses could prove problematic for young kids. So this surgery is especially useful.
Currently, technology isn’t that advanced to comfortably embed such complex sensors and camera optics into contact lenses so this is just a theoretical idea for the future and it remains to be seen what the future holds for it.