If you thought Alphabet Inc’s (GOOG, GOOGL) Google Glass was invasive, you’re not going to be happy about the patent application filed by Samsung (SSNLF). It offers a similar augmented reality experience to Google Glass — an overlay display, camera and Wi-Fi — but instead of clunky headgear, Samsung wants to miniaturize all this technology and embed it in a contact lens.
No giveaway high-tech eyeglasses or blinking red light, the Samsung contact lens would be a privacy nightmare. And possibly just what augmented reality needs to get off the ground, if and when the technology arrives to support the idea.
Samsung’s patent is several years old and consists of 29 pages in Korean — which is probably why news of it didn’t surface until a few days ago when SamMobile published the scoop.
The patent is for a smart contact lens equipped with a camera, display, an antenna and sensors. The antenna would wirelessly connect to a smartphone, which would provide the brains of the operation rather than the lenses operating independently.
The OLED display would project images directly on the wearer’s eye, a method the patent application suggests would offer a much higher image quality than Google Glass is capable of. The sensors would be used to detect where a person was looking — the patent hints at the lens using that data to display relevant information on an overlay.
Samsung Contact Lens Isn’t Science Fiction
The sensors would also be used in conjunction with that camera in what is likely to be the most controversial feature of the Samsung contact lens (at least if the public reaction to Google Glass is any indicator): being able to snap photos and presumably shoot video, with the blink of an eye.
If embedding this kind of technology in something as tiny as a contact lens sounds like science fiction, it’s not.
Google has had a smart contact lens project on-the-go since 2014. It’s tackling a different mission than the Samsung contact lens — monitoring blood glucose levels in diabetics — but it consists of advanced technology that’s not far off from what Samsung is proposing in terms of complexity. Google embedded miniaturized glucose sensors, a wireless chip and an antenna in contact lenses, complete with a working prototype that’s gone through clinical research trials.
And that was two years ago.
One of the primary reasons the public pushed back against Google Glass was the need for the headgear. Even when mounted on designer eyeglass frames, Google Glass just looked too obvious, it added bulk and there are a lot of people who have no desire to wear glasses.
The patent filed by Samsung could lead to augmented reality that doesn’t require any external headgear, while offering a superior user experience. You wouldn’t even know you were wearing it, and instead of giveaway hand motions for controls, all you would need to do is look and blink.
That is exactly the kind of disruptive move that could kick augmented reality into the mainstream where Google Glass fell flat on its face. The problem is that with the Samsung contact lens being virtually undetectable, the other part of augmented reality the public hated — the idea of being surreptitiously photographed or filmed — gets much, much worse.
It’s so bad, in fact, that having to worry about an easily-spotted “Glasshole” would seem like the good-old-days in comparison.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.