Samsung Electronics has been granted a patent in South Korea for “smart contact lenses” with a display that projects images directly into wearer's eyes for realistic augmented reality (AR). It is part of the company’s effort to strengthen its new business as it is focusing on promoting new future businesses, including AR and virtual reality (VR).
According to an international IT news outlet SamMobile and the Korean Intellectual Property Office on Apr. 6, Samsung's smart contact lenses and manufacturing and operation process patent for AG, which the company filed the patent application in Sept. 2014, was revealed on Apr. 5. In general, a patent is open to the public 18 months after the completion of patent application. That's the same year that Google unveiled a prototype smart contact lens to monitor blood glucose levels by analyzing tears of diabetes.
Users can wear Samsung Electronics’ smart contact lenses directly on the retina just like existing contact lenses. However, its smart contact lens are embedded with a tiny display, camera, antenna and sensors to detect blinks and movements. The sensors can control the various features using blinks. By connecting with other devices like smartphones, the lens can search for information about things the wearer sees in real time and show the result straight onto the retina.
Samsung Electronics said that the primary reason for the development of smart contact lenses is to provide clear images regardless of the wearer’s movement or the focal distance, and widen the viewing angle. Also, the company thought that the lenses can provide a more natural way to provide AR than existing AR devices including Google Glasses. The image quality of existing AR devices is often affected by the movement of the wearer, leading to the narrow viewing angle. However, the smart lenses can widen the viewing angle much further since they can be worn directly on the retina.
According to digital consulting firm Digi-Capital, the VR and AR market is forecast to grow to US$150 billion (174 trillion won) by 2020. In particular, the AR industry is expected to show a faster growth than VR.