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The Future Gets Closer
September 7, 2009 7:02 PM   Subscribe

The practical possiblility of augmented reality contact lenses. Contact lenses that reshape the eye. Bone-anchored hearing aids. Voice box transplant plans.
posted by StrikeTheViol (22 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Meant to add in after hearing aids: MP3 player bone anchored hearing aids.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 7:10 PM on September 7, 2009


I suffer from the eye condition keratoconus and the only corrective eyewear I can use is hard (aka rigid gas permeable) contact lenses. Soon after I started wearing them, I noticed that, when I removed the lenses after several hours' wear, my eyesight was perfect, and would remain so for a couple of hours.

So when my daughter was diagnosed with nearsightedness about a year ago, her ophthalmologist suggested we try so-called "gentle molding" contact lenses, which are exactly as described in the article in the second link - she wears them at night, five nights a week, and during the day, her eyesight is typically 20/20.

So ... thank you for posting this, it was great to see the reference to a study on this, which even has its own Facebook page.
posted by kcds at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hmm. Of course it turned out that VR worked better as a metaphor for thoroughly 2D stuff rather than as Second Life.
posted by Artw at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2009


Holy fucking crap. So, even though I've worn glasses since I was 2, my kids, potentially, won't need to ever wear them?

That is fucking amazing. Welcome to the future, where we reshape the eyeballs of our children. Damn.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:28 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Twenty years ago opthamologists were noticing that hard lenses gradually improved people's vision. One of my friends went to an opthamologist who was doing it deliberately, gradually adjusting her prescription over the course of several years. Today's soft lenses don't have the same effect.

But I suppose it takes a study to confirm that common wisdom isn't just common delusion.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:35 PM on September 7, 2009


Kcds, how old would a child need to be to use those contact lenses?
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:43 PM on September 7, 2009


From the article in the first comment:

For Mr Hughes it will be a long wait until the processors are attached in about three weeks.

''My sister says that when I first came home from hospital as a baby in 1939 I had an ear infection. They haven't stopped since, so it's exciting to think I will be able to hear properly again. It's been 70 years now. So it's been a long haul.''


This sort of thing puts a lump in my throat and makes me jump up and down and say, "Science!" Really cool post!
posted by nosila at 7:44 PM on September 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Joe, I started wearing hard contacts at age six or seven. But they were very uncomfortable, and I was glad when I was able to replace them with soft contacts.
posted by orthogonality at 7:52 PM on September 7, 2009


So, when I was in graduate school, I did some augmented reality prototyping. It's fun stuff, but the experience has made me pretty skeptical of the whole "magic contact lenses" thing. At the moment we're just starting to see consumer grade visual AR come into wide availability with the prominence of "magic window" applications on camera-equipped phones (audio AR has been common since the Walkman). This may create enough public interest to generate a lucrative market for AR technologies, but contact lenses are a long way off.

Not addressed in the first article is the problem of heat generation. Contacts can be uncomfortable enough for many people, and embedded electronics run the risk of making your eyes dry out faster than normal.

Secondly, the human brain automatically filters out stabilized images, that is, images that are unaffected by the micromovements of the eye while it is fixated on something. Exactly why this happens is unknown, but assuming the lens does a good job of moving with the eye, anything shown on a fixed display is going to quickly vanish. Of course the display could constantly vibrate itself to compensate for this, but that demands image resolution great enough that the slight image movements don't render the display unintelligible.

Anyway, we're bound to get AR glasses before we get contacts, and for all we know we may not even like this kind of omnipresent display. Most people can't wear VR goggles for longer than 20 minutes without starting to feel sick.

Those eye-shaping contacts seem pretty cool, though.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 7:52 PM on September 7, 2009 [3 favorites]


Orthokeratology has been around for a while... though it sounds like technology has improved the process.
posted by kira at 9:35 PM on September 7, 2009


I wrote this up for the site I work for... the lenses seem less than practical to me, the image really needs to be more salient. I proposed a tiny laser-based projector embedded in the eye, but still, there are a looooot of issues to work out.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 10:07 PM on September 7, 2009


i underwent orthokeratology as ayoung teen, in the late 1970's. it worked pretty well as far as correcting my vision. i went from 20/200 to about 20/80. but the contacts were extremely uncomfortable and i couldn't keep up the discipline. it was just easier to wear glasses. my vision gradually returned to 20/200 over the next few months.

in more recent years, a few friends have tried the the gas permeable contacts (just as regular vision correction, not as part of a corneal reshaping program) and they love 'em. i've thought of trying orthokeratology again - with the gas-permeable contacts - as a less invasive version than laser kerotomy, but... my eye doctor says i am now at the age where either process is unlikely to free me from wearing glasses, as my corneas are beginning to lose flexibility. correcting the nearsightedness would mean i'd have to wear reading glasses.

but if i could afford the laser kerotomy? hell - i'd go ahead and get it! using glasses to read is better than wearing glasses all the time. several of my friends have undergone laser kerotomy, and they love it. the practice has been done for more than 20 years and the side effects discovered in that time period have been determined as pretty minimal.

however, children likely wouldn't be able to undergo the laser. so a cornea-shaping contact lens program would be a good alternative - especially if the effects were long-term.
posted by lapolla at 10:38 PM on September 7, 2009


The first successful larynx transplant was done at Cleveland Clinic in 1998. It's a remarkable story. Little noted: the larynx transplant essentially set the ethical and microsurgical stage for the first nearly full face transplant, which took place at Cleveland Clinic two years ago. These wonders are happening right now.
posted by Faze at 4:25 AM on September 8, 2009


I also have keratoconus, but I haven't done much of anything about it yet. I'll have to look into this stuff a bit more.
posted by jbelshaw at 6:59 AM on September 8, 2009


Well well well, viddy that frosty wetware!
posted by fuq at 7:21 AM on September 8, 2009


Owning Eyeballs: What happens when the lens through which you view the world is owned by someone whose business model is all about selling eyeballs?
posted by homunculus at 9:18 AM on September 8, 2009


I tested hearing aids a couple of years ago - both the earlier version of the bone-anchored aid (called the BAHA) and a traditional high powered behind the ear aid. I was all excited about leapfrogging to superhuman hearing - maybe programming in settings to amplify specific noises at a distance so that I could, say, hear from upstairs whether someone was using the shared laundry in my basement. But my audiologist was pretty uninterested in such things; his attitude was that it was enough of a challenge to bring people up to 'normal' hearing and he seemed to think it was kind of unseemly to think about using the aids to hear things that normal ears couldn't.
posted by yarrow at 10:34 AM on September 8, 2009


Secondly, the human brain automatically filters out stabilized images, that is, images that are unaffected by the micromovements of the eye while it is fixated on something.

Are glasses far away enough that they aren't affected by this?

Anyway, we're bound to get AR glasses before we get contacts

Is anybody even producing prototypes?

Some days I want totally off the grid, but some days I want computing I can wear, talk to via chording keyboard in one hand, and see results overlaying my vision...
posted by weston at 10:43 AM on September 8, 2009


paisley: the thing about eye reshaping contacts is you have to wear them EVERY night. the reshaping is temporary.

if you want permanent reshaping, lasik eye surgery is the modern "miracle" cure, but its certainly not appropriate for a kid.
posted by mano at 10:48 AM on September 8, 2009


I'd love to get a BAHA (bone-anchored hearing aid), but they'd cost about the same as a decent car (factoring in the cost of surgery to implant the titanium post), and insurance won't pay for it. So, I tell myself that if Brian Wilson (as well as Alan Moore, Rob Lowe, and Stephen Colbert) can get along with one ear, so can I.

although if they ever introduce a chrome model with built-in laser, I may change my mind on that. I could tell people that it's my link to the Collective.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:57 AM on September 8, 2009


Are glasses far away enough that they aren't affected by [static image filtering]?

Yes. Otherwise VR headsets and those ridiculous TV glasses you see in SkyMall catalogs wouldn't work.

Is anybody even producing prototypes [of AR glasses]?

Yes, although the state of the art is pretty underwhelming. I don't have any good links unfortunately. It's been a few years since I've really kept up with this stuff, and the companies I was familiar with seem to be out of business.
posted by GameDesignerBen at 12:24 PM on September 8, 2009


weston: Are glasses far away enough that they aren't affected by this?

It's not the distance per se; glasses aren't physically attached to your eyeball, so they won't move with saccades.
posted by hattifattener at 10:30 PM on September 8, 2009


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