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Mobile Communications

Kathryn Cave (Global) - Would You Use Bionic Contact Lenses?

The camera zooms in on a chiseled seventies face. It moves in for an extreme close-up of his left eye. The viewpoint switches. We see events from the actor’s point of view. There is a crosshair motif and beeping sound effect: yes, Steve Austin is using his bionic eye…

This is ‘Six Million Dollar Man’, one of the most popular US television shows of the 1970s, and the central character is part bionic. It is the stuff of science fiction. The sort of futuristic nonsense normally associated with flying cars and holidaying on the moon. Yet last week developers at Washington University announced they have just tested bionic contact lenses. These will mean that users can view floating emails and text messages as well as “augment their sight with computer-generated images”… although it has only been trialed on rabbits so far.

It is a baffling concept. Professor Babak Parviz explained the conundrum best when he described that one major hurdle was just getting the human eye to focus on an image generated on its own surface. This alone seems inconceivable. But the real question is would you actually want bionic contacts? Normal contacts are pretty intrusive, colored contacts take invasiveness a step further... contacts which deliver text sound positively interfering!

However, when we popped a poll up on our website after this story broke, 57% of 315 respondents said they would use bionic contact lenses! Interestingly voters came from all over the world, and of the remaining 43%, only 18% were adamant they would not use them, while 25% were not sure. Now I’m prepared to accept that I’m a just a miserable Luddite at heart, but none the less, these results really are fascinating. I am genuinely astonished that such a high volume of people would want third party information ‘placed directly’ onto their eye. Surely it would be hard to control – like a single television channel - the implications are humungous.

Today biometric technology (in its many different guises) is becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Only last week three LA airports announced that they would begin putting the groundwork in place to replace their magnetic swipe card systems with biometric-based identification. On top of this, new types of technology are being tested and released all the time. We’re all familiar with face and voice recognition, along with a multitude of different body scans, but there also a number of even more intrusive tests being developed. Each of these throws up its own personal privacy concern and adds a strong element of ‘Big Brother’ into the mix.

Nobody knows what the future will bring. Although rumor has it that the Weinstein Company could be working on an adaption of the Six Million Dollar Man starring Leonardo DiCaprio…

Bionic contacts anyone?

By Kathryn Cave, e-Editor at IDG Connect

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