Sales of smart glasses have not exactly soared. According to the latest number from Statistica, the combined total sales for virtual reality headsets and smart glasses was approximately 100,000 in 2015, expected to be 1 to 2 million in 2016, and 6.3 million in 2017. Google Glass was first released to developers in 2013 but never caught on for various reasons including high price and geeky appearance.
One read on the reluctance of consumers to adopt smart glasses could be that while people might appreciate the concept of being able reference a mobile display while out and about, they don’t want to look like dorks. A project under development at University of South Australia’s (UniSA) Future Industries Institute (FII) to create a conductive contact lens may be an answer. The FII design combines biometric sensors and augmented reality capability on a contact lens, potentially along with any needed vision correction and could answer the dorkiness objection, though it remains to be seen if the device can be produced at a reasonable price.
The UniSA researchers previously worked with ultra-thin coatings for vehicles and windows to improve energy efficiency. The developers next proved they could grow biocompatible, conductive polymers directly on a contact lens. The next step would be a virtual display overlay that could extend the lens functionality to include augmented reality. The team has published their proof of concept and are moving forward in anticipation of demand as the Health Tech market grows and matures. The lens has to be comfortable, functional, and above all safe with no threat to the wearer from the low power electrical signals passing through the polymer level.
It’s too soon to talk about specific applications for the UniSA smart lens, but the potential for a self-contained system to monitor and report on health conditions while at the same time displaying signals, data, and content from other sources is sure to attract attention. And no one will think anyone looks dorky.