The Practical Applications Of Sony's Smart Contact Lenses

Can wearable tech help us unpack tragedy?
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Olga Lexell
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Can wearable tech help us unpack tragedy?

Sony made serious waves last week when they unveiled their patent application for a new set of smart contact lenses that can record and play back videos directly to your eyes. Sony's hope is that all of the storage and camera components would be small enough to fit inside of each lens and that specific eye movements, like a heavy blink, would trigger sensors that power them. It's the kind of weird dystopian thing everyone expected would happen sooner or later, and it's not exactly new territory -- Google and Samsung both already have patents for similar wearables. (Mainstream self-driving cars can't come soon enough if this is going to be yet another piece of tech people shouldn't use while driving but do anyway.)

It's a big step forward for vision tech. We tend to think of glasses and contact lenses as a way of treating vision problems; integrating tech into contacts changes them from a medical device to a mainstream wearable on par with a smartphone. Then again, this is all assuming these contact lenses will even catch on -- remember, we all thought Google Glass was going to be the next big thing and look how that turned out.

The bigger consequence of Sony's patent is that wearable smart contacts would be the first truly immersive way to share a point of view. "I could take so many discreet food pics," you're thinking. But beyond using them for Instagram, these contacts could have serious implications if they're even accessible to the people who need them the most. Something like this would make it easier than ever for people in war and conflict zones to communicate with the outside world. To offer an example: for months now, we've watched the media and politicians offer takes on the bombing of Kunduz Hospital, but the average citizen wasn't actually there and the tragedy has turned into a "he-said-she-said" debate between the U.S. military and Medecins Sans Frontieres that takes attention away from the human tragedy of the event. You can find official media photos of the wreckage, but it's much harder to access photos taken by the people who lived through the bombing and whose opinions of it are often talked over. Consider this: we've already seen this kind of tech implemented in the US military, which uses an augmented reality system that communicates information to soldiers' helmets. Maybe it's about time we arm those on the other side of the conflict with similar tools.