Photography

Sony files patent for contact lens that records what you see

Sony files patent for contact ...
Sony has filed a patent for a contact lens that captures photos and videos with a blink of the eye
Sony has filed a patent for a contact lens that captures photos and videos with a blink of the eye
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Sony has filed a patent for a contact lens that captures photos and videos with a blink of the eye
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Sony has filed a patent for a contact lens that captures photos and videos with a blink of the eye
Among the hardware built into the lens would be an image capture unit, a main control unit, storage module, antenna and a piezoelectric sensor
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Among the hardware built into the lens would be an image capture unit, a main control unit, storage module, antenna and a piezoelectric sensor

Although electronic devices are shrinking all the time, the idea of a smart contact lens still seems wildly ambitious. Now Sony has reached even further into the realm of the hypothetical and yanked out something that trumps all the efforts we have seen before. A patent filing by the Japanese company reveals its vision for a contact lens that not only records video and images with a simple blink, but manages to store them right there and then on the user's eyeballs.

Google, Samsung and a number of research groups have all made their plans for smart contact lenses public. The motivation behind these range from glucose monitoring to augmented reality to boosting vision through telescopic lenses. But one thing they have in common is that they are all early-stage prototypes or patented pipe dreams, with consumer-ready products seemingly still a ways off.

Sony's patent application doesn't change that, but does reveal an even bolder plan for a smarter, and probably scarier, piece of eyewear. Among the hardware built into the lens would be an image capture unit, a main control unit, storage module, antenna and a piezoelectric sensor.

Among the hardware built into the lens would be an image capture unit, a main control unit, storage module, antenna and a piezoelectric sensor
Among the hardware built into the lens would be an image capture unit, a main control unit, storage module, antenna and a piezoelectric sensor

These piezoelectric sensors would sense how long eyelids remain closed to discern between conscious blinks and unconscious blinks. This would give wearers a simple control mechanism to capture photos and videos and upend the old adage "blink and you'll miss it" in the process.

As the patent filing states: "It is known that a time period of usual blinking is generally 0.2 seconds to 0.4 seconds, and therefore it can be said that, in the case where the time period of blinking exceeds 0.5 seconds, the blinking is conscious blinking that is different from usual blinking (unconscious blinking)."

Power would come wirelessly by way of a nearby smartphone, tablet or computer. This could be achieved either through electromagnetic induction, radio waves or electromagnetic field resonance. The lens would also be capable of zooming and autofocusing.

Clearly there'd be a long line of technological and regulatory hoops to jump through before the streets are filled with blink-happy pedestrians cataloging everything in sight. But nonetheless, that another big player is eying such a future is pretty exciting, or scary-as-hell, depending on how you look at it.

Source: US Patent & Trademark Office

12 comments
BexWhitt
I'm sick of companies being allowed to patent stuff they clearly can't deliver at this moment in time, it stifles progress.
Daishi
@BexWhitt I agree this pretty much counts on squatting on a patent that nobody could deliver a current product for. It seems like an easy strategy to claim rights to a technology so you have exclusive rights for when it eventually becomes available but the other side of that is the 20 year expiration date on patents is probably too long so filing now for something we won't see for 10+ years might not be all bad.
This might be the prior art other companies can hold up when the tech finally does get ironed out when I am old enough to need corrective lenses. I have seen some similar ideas before so I am betting there are some similar patents that were filed before this one. A quick search reveals Google and Samsung are/were also working on smart contact lenses. The renders from the 2014 article on Google look pretty much like Sony's patent sketches.
Mel Tisdale
Anything that stifles the progress of this sort of thing is to be encouraged. Just what sort of a future are we handing down to the next generation if this might make it into production in some form or other? It will be bad enough to be robbed, but to to lose one's sight because the thief wanted to remove anything that might identify them will be horrendous.
VincentWolf
Sounds like something 'M' and Bond would be discussing for spying. If they can do this privacy takes a huge hit. How do you police it in places cameras are not allowed? How would you stop a lowly paid employee from being spiked with a camera like this while Hollywood is filming a big movie and then all the raw footage is stolen even before the film is ready for production?
noteugene
All these naysayers, a popular sport on Gizmag. I think it's a great idea. When someone is being discriminated against at work or being treated like crap, a recording of that would be ideal. The same when shopping for a car and you told a line of bull.
Bob Flint
It will probably take at least 15 years before working versions are up and running, buy that time patents will run out, and but imagine the prospect if all humans were to be linked to an all seeing & hearing master computer that documents each and every living moment from birth to death. Allows for one to live in someone else's life if you were so inclined...could we then control & document the seven sins, & possible evolve into better humans?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Hidden in this article is the greatest benefit: a focusing lens!
habakak
Mel T, you're comment is so unaccepting of change. Whining about it won't help and also widely misplaced. This is no different from any other change. You think that people won't punch you or stab you to take your smartphone? Or Walkman in the 80's. Or wireless in the 20's?
Nothing really changes. Twitter today is what telegrams used to be. Email is what letters used to be. It's just cheaper to access (democratized).
FredSchecter
This would be a great way to capture snapshots from my flying car. By the way, Douglas Rogers, there already is such a lens. I had two "installed" in my eyes a few years ago and they work like a charm. Called "RESTOR" ..invented in Russia. Haven't needed reading or distance glasses since. Bring it on
Charles Barnard
The patent system is in need of revamping.
The first thing that it needs is to return to "first invented" rather than "first filed."
First filed is an open invitation to intellectual property theft, and discourages one of the prime modes of advancing an invention--discussing it with others!
Second, the system must guarantee that the disclosure in the patent is sufficient to permit "one skilled in the field" to RECREATE the invention. Most patents do not contain sufficient information to replicate the device, and this is a key part of why patents (short-term monopolies) are issued by governments. The ONLY reason a patent is issued is in return for making the information public so that others may build upon and improve the device.
Third, better reviews are needed. Apple has managed to get patents for algorithms which were in common use for decades before they applied. This is abuse of the system.
Fourth, the device must be buildable AND function as described. We used to assure this by requiring a working model to be submitted with the application. Today we never verify that the device functions.
If we could patent mere ideas, the Arthur C. Clarke is owed millions by everyone who has ever put a satellite in orbit!