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Augmented reality displays moving towards smart contact lenses to enable vision of invisible computing

Smart glasses refer to wearable computing devices that add information to what the user sees. These devices function in a way similar to mobile phones and tablets and have the ability of processing and implementing various programs and applications. A majority of the smart glasses currently used in the market are embedded with touch and voice command features. The big advantage with the data glasses, is that the wearer’s hands are free – in contrast, a smartphone has to be held in the hand. This could be advantageous for anyone from mechanics reading assembly instructions to cyclists following projected navigation arrows  as they travel across the country.


The first data glass was introduced by Google, when it started selling a prototype of Google glass to qualified “Glass Explorers”   in the US on April 15,2013, for a limited period for $1,500, before it  became available to the public on May 15, 2014. In January 15, 2015, Google announced that it would stop producing the Google Glass prototype but remained committed to the development of the product.


The FCC’s website has new high-resolution images of Google Glass 2.0, and there’s a number of subtle changes between the original version and the new model. According to reports Glass 2.0 will be called Google Glass Enterprise Edition, would be fold able making it easier to carry in pocket, durable, rugged build along with a waterproof design and with a Wearable Battery Pack. It will be powered by new Intel processor, which is set to improve not only overall performance but offer better heat management. The speaker is now internal (no more bone conduction), reports that the power button has moved to the back. On the connectivity front, the filing reveals there’ll now be 5GHz Wi-Fi band support allowing users to stream video applications.


Other companies also joined in fray of making smart glasses, making Magic Leap released its developer edition glasses , and now we have the nReal Light glasses to look forward to in 2019. Apple has partnered with German lens and optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss AG on a new pair of augmented reality (AR) smart glasses. It’s price is not disclosed, however its competitors Google priced its failed “Glass” product at over £1,000, while Snapchat is currently selling its “Spectacles” in the US for $130 (£100). Recently leaked information includes the fact that they’re going to offer built-in 6-degree-of-freedom (6DoF) tracking. That means they’ll not only work out which way your head is pointing, they’ll be able to track it as it moves forwards, backwards, up and down through space.


In Jan 2019 the Mojo Vision, a startup  unveiled a smart contact lens which delivers an augmented reality display in a user’s field of vision. The contact lens offers a display with information and notifications, and allows the user to interact by focusing on certain points. The rigid contact lens, which the company has been developing in stealth mode for some 10 years, may also be used to help people with visual impairments by using enhanced image overlays, and has obtained US approval for testing it as a medical device.


“Mojo has a vision for invisible computing where you have the information you want when you want it and are not bombarded or distracted by data when you don’t,” said chief executive Drew Perkins. In a demonstration to an AFP reporter, company executives showed how the contact lens could enable users to see a virtual teleprompter, navigation instructions or other interactions that appear floating in the field of vision by projecting a micro-LED display to the retina. A user, wearing two lenses which may be fitted with a correction prescription, could “click” by concentrating on an icon—to launch a music player, for example—and turn off by looking away. Mojo said it  has received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration as a “breakthrough” device to test the contact lens to help people with visual impairments such as macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa.


The company said the contact lens is designed to provide overlays that augment sight for people with “low vision” and may assist in mobility, reading and other functions. The contact lens aims to enable people to move away from physical devices and interact more naturally with technology. It also could have business applications, allowing workers or specialists access to real-time information in their field of vision without a bulky headset.


A challenge has been to pack into the lens the complex circuitry, image sensor, wireless radio and battery needed for the wearable device. Executives said the current version would transmit and receive information wirelessly through a portable relay box which could be clipped to a belt, but they hope to link directly to smartphones in the future.

Google Glass

Google glass, the Android-powered eye wear , is a pair of smart glasses that brings power of internet right in front of your eyes .The prototype kit featured a transparent display that creates the illusion of a 25in (63.5cm) screen floating about 8ft (2.4m) in front of the wearer’s right eye, which can be used to display information from apps.Google pitches Glass as a hands-free, quick-to-use alternative to smartphones.


The device designed by “Google X lab”, essentially combines wearable computing with a head up display, letting you see information on a small prism display screen and controlling the device through natural voice commands. You say ‘Ok Glass” to get a range of options including taking pictures, taking videos, videoconferencing with webcams and taking directions.


The glasses have an embedded camera, a battery , computer with a GPS chip, microphone and uses Bluetooth/ wifi technology to project images to the semi transparent prism that projects the augmented reality layer of information on the retina. The machine can play back audio by sending vibrations through the wearer’s skull using a bone conduction transducer, or via more traditional headphones.


Likewise, studies of evaluation and comparison with similar technologies (e.g., Go Pro R Hero) reveal limitations in the quality of the images and the inability to indicate points of interest in the images with such a low resolution, a fact that affects the image interpretation. Other concerns spotted in the studies are related to the security and privacy of data (images, texts and sounds) that Google Glass records and stores. Another one of first generation Glass’s flaws was apps. There just wasn’t enough available to make it useful.


Concerns have been raised by various sources regarding the intrusion of privacy and the etiquette and ethics of using the device in  public and recording people without their permission. Privacy advocates are concerned that people wearing such  eyewear may  be able to identify strangers in public using facial  recognition, or surreptitiously record and broadcast private conversations. Concerns have also been raised on operating motor vehicles while wearing the device.

More Companies start introducing smart data glasses

Other companies are also coming with data glasses. A US research company has built a pair of glasses frames that are capable of tracking a host of biometric and fitness data. Level are worn like a normal pair of glasses but has a series of sensors embedded into the frame including a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer. The tech is used to monitor steps, distance, calories burned and active time.


Microsoft announced HoloLens — augmented reality glasses that Redmond insists on referring to as “holographic” technology. Similarly, former Valve employees are making gaming-focused AR goggles called “CastAR.”

Vuzix Blade Commercial Edge has good display with even photos looking crisp and vibrant. There’s also an 8MP camera on board, with 4GB of storage and around  two to two-and-a-half hours of battery life. Solos smartglasses pack in a small heads-up display enabling cyclists to glance at a host of useful data in real time, including speed, cadence, heart rate and power zones. Israel-based outfit Everysight has taken its years of expertise building heads-up displays for the military and built its own smart AR smartglasses for cyclists.


Chinese startup Nreal has plans  to release their version called Light – which as its name suggests – is a lighter version. “They’ve been able to take the technology that makes some really impressive AR devices like the Microsoft HoloLens and the Magic Leap and converted it down to this form factor,” Velazco told CNBC.  Nreal Light mixed reality glasses is able to offer a sharp and vivid image thanks to 1080p laser projectors (up to 60 fps) for each eye, all the while offering a 52-degree field of view . The frame has dual microphones along the top for clearer reception, along with stereo speakers towards the end of both foldable arms (or you can switch to Bluetooth headphones), plus brightness buttons on one of the arms.


Sony has introduced augmented reality “SmartEyeglass,” in Germany and the UK. SmartEyeGlass includes an array of features, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, ambient light sensor and built in camera, However, the monochrome screen is down feature.


Google Glass (Google Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA) is a device that can be very useful in medical applications, as it allows the presentation of information in a simple and ergonomic way, in real-time to the user. Google Glass has been applied in many fields of medicine and public health. Among the most widespread applications are surgery, ophthalmology, cardiology , emergency and bedside.


Most studies show promising results but list a number of shortcomings when using Google Glass. Major limitations highlighted by authors are the short battery life in stand-alone use, which is less than 60 min, it struggled to make it through the one day Google promised it would last for. One of the challenge of data glasses have been that the displays  and electronics consume a lot of  battery power because the video images process lots of data.  In most  cases, the battery  is out of  juice after an hour. What’s more, the microprocessors get hot very quickly.  The frame of the  glasses warms up, which is unpleasant on the sensitive area around the temple.


Energy­ saving technology for Data Glasses

Fraunhofer researchers have developed an energy­ saving display that reduces the power  consumption to a fraction.  While ordinary data glasses require an output of 200 milliwatts, the FEP display suffices with two to three milliwatts – a mere one hundredth of the original amount.


Engineers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP in Dresden have developed an energy ­saving display that is also very bright.  The scientists have  many years of experience in the design and manufacture of displays with organic light emitting  diodes (OLED), which are based on electrically conducting organic  semiconductors that emit very  bright light while energised.


The OLEDs are applied to a silicon semiconductor which controls the individual pixels. The FEP has integrated a camera function into the chip. As a result,  the OLED microdisplays  not only emit light,   but also perceive the surroundings. There is also a small light­ sensitive photodiode located in each pixel.  The camera function, for example, is important in order to determine the direction in which the  wearer looks. However, these displays have the same problem as all other displays of data glasses – high energy consumption


Project manager Philipp Wartenberg and his colleagues at the FEP have found a way to  reduce the  large data stream. “We now control the chip so that the entire video image is not constantly renewed, rather only that part of the display in which something changes.”


For example, if an actor runs through a room in a movie, only his position changes, not the background. In applications such as a navigation system for cyclists, in which only arrows or metre information  is displayed,  it is unnecessary in any case to constantly renew the whole picture, says Wartenberg. “To put it simply, we have now adapted the circuit so that it only lets through that portion of the data stream which changes.”


Military Google Glass

US Soldiers use Google Glass-like augmented reality system designed for the battlefield. Called ARC4, it allows commanders to send maps and other information directly to the soldier’s field of vision. The gadget attaches to a military helmet, and can even be integrated with weapons control system. The firm behind it, Applied Research Associates, says the system was developed as part of a six year project with substantial investment from the US Military’s DARPA unit.


BAE Systems have already developed Q-Warrior, a full-color, 3D heads-up display designed to provide soldiers in the field with rapid, real-time situational awareness. Q-Warrior consists of a high-resolution transparent display that overlays data and a video stream over the soldier’s view of the world. Q-Warrior also includes enhanced night vision, waypoints and routing information, and the ability to identify hostile and non-hostile forces, track personnel and assets, and coordinate small unit actions.



Market Growth

The global smart glasses market should reach about $20.0 billion by 2022 from $340.4 million in 2017 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 125.8%, from 2017 to 2022.


In general, smart glasses cover both the virtual reality (VR) headsets and augmented reality (AR) headsets. In VR, the user is completely submerged in a virtual environment, whereas in AR, the digital information is projected on top of the real world. Augmented reality glasses are stand-alone devices while virtual reality devices need to be supported by other electronic devices such as smart phones, computers, and gaming consoles. Hence, in this report, the scope considered under smart glasses includes only augmented reality glasses, as they are equipped with computational capabilities and stand-alone devices. Since VR glasses do not have computational capabilities, they have not been considered as “smart glasses”.


The global smart glasses market has been segmented on the basis of their form factor, operating system, display technology, applications, and geography. Based on form factor, the smart glasses market has been segmented into monocular smart glasses and binocular smart glasses. Based on operating system, the smart glasses market has been segmented into android-based glasses, windows operated glasses, and others. The smart glasses market based on display type has been segmented into diffractive waveguide displays, holographic display, polarized waveguide display, and others.


The applications segment of the smart glasses market is generally categorized into consumer applications and enterprise applications. The enterprise application segment of smart glasses market has been further categorized into manufacturing, healthcare, military & defense, warehouse, construction & architecture, and others.


“The Smart Glasses segment is at the core of the next big computing wave which is about to explode; whether you are an investor, a hardware manufacturer, a startup, or a software developer you have a 12 months window to establish a strategy or risk missing the opportunity,” explained Ori Inbar, author of the report. “The ability of smart glasses to deliver contextual information in a hands-free experience is already making these devices indispensable for enterprises, and will become inevitable for consumers within a few years.”


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