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Input Devices Technology

Contact Lenses With Infrared Vision? 99

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
Orlando (12257) writes "A story on Singularity Hub reports that "Researchers at the University of Michigan, led by electrical engineer Zhaohui Zhong, have devised a way to capture the infrared spectrum without requiring the cooling that makes infrared goggles so cumbersome." The method uses graphene and could one day lead to ultra light weight infrared vision technology."
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Contact Lenses With Infrared Vision?

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  • by rebelwarlock (1319465) on Monday March 31, 2014 @09:33AM (#46620481)
    Infrared essentially blocks out normal vision. While this may be useful as wearable computing, it wouldn't be useful if you had to poke around in your eye every time you needed to switch back to normal vision.
    • by Scutter (18425) on Monday March 31, 2014 @09:45AM (#46620591) Journal

      Exactly. I'm not sure why it needs to jump directly to contacts. Why not just regular sunglasses? The article even says "...that makes infrared goggles so cumbersome." So, great! Now you can pack all of that down into a standard pair of glasses that you can easily put on and take off, even when your fingers are filthy from crawling in the dirt during combat.

    • by RNLockwood (224353) on Monday March 31, 2014 @10:04AM (#46620767) Homepage

      When I go out to the desert on a clear day I'm getting a lot of infrared, if it blocked out normal vision I wouldn't need sunglasses (except that the glasses block UV). Perhaps what was meant is that the lens that would be needed to focus the light would block the IR and the lens for IR would block visible light. That's generally true except for near IR (NIR) but to separate NIR from visible IR a filter to do that would be used just as it is used in digital cameras.

      The article implies that it works across the IR spectrum but that's enormously wide - from about 700 nm to 1 mm wavelength with ever decreasing energy in the photons.

      I think that there is less information in the press release than meets the eye.

    • I think it would be more like how the military uses night vision - one eye for normal vision, one eye for night vision wear, or in this case, infrared contacts.

    • I wonder if an inductive current or magnetic field could be used to toggle them 'on' and 'off'?
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      IR contact lenses have a lot bigger problems than just how do you turn it off. Press a button to go back to normal vision. Any contact lens application would require a screen integrated into the lens (which we can't do yet anyway). Adding a button to turn it off is trivial in comparison.

      • by rtaylor (70602)

        Close your IR eye and open your normal vision eye.

        Same idea as pirates moving their patch from one eye to the other when going from surface to inside the dark ship.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Wouldn't that actually make the closed eye light up? Since you eyelid is filled with blood vessels which are body temperature.
    • Give me Predator Vision! This would totally rock, but would prefer light weight glasses instead of contact lenses.

    • Its the lens that blocks it - and does so in all apes and monkeys. However people who've had their lens replaced due to cataracts or some other eye problem often find they can see UV (eg dark lights in clubs or lamps to check for forged notes) depending on the material the lens is made of. I suppose in theory - in some distopian future - the military could replace soldiers lenses then equip them with UV torches. No contacts or glasses required.

    • by cyn1c77 (928549)

      Infrared essentially blocks out normal vision. While this may be useful as wearable computing, it wouldn't be useful if you had to poke around in your eye every time you needed to switch back to normal vision.

      You are missing the point. (And must not need bifocals!)

      It would be useful if I could put one IR-capable contact lens in one eye, while having a regular lens in the other eye. This would be fantastic for driving at night, or hunting those pesky pack rats that live in my backyard.

      Many people who need bifocals use a different lens in each eye for distance and reading. Some also get laser-corrected to this state. Most peoples' brains are able to successfully merge the different images, but some are not. (

    • The article describes a technique for sensing infrared light, turning it into an electric current. It's not possible to do that and display an image on a contact lens that we could actually focus on (you can't focus on something that's right on your eye).

      The only way to make a contact lens that would allow somebody to see infrared light would be to have a lens made out of a material such that when it receives an infrared photon, it absorbs that photon and emits a visible-light photon traveling in the same

    • by Aighearach (97333)

      Infrared essentially blocks out normal vision.

      Adding spectrum does not guarantee that you also have to subtract spectrum. The only reason you would block out visible light is because it is useful to the application.

    • by tsotha (720379)
      The latest infrared goggles actually integrate infrared and normal vision. Probably be awhile before we can fit all that processing into contacts, though.
  • by kruach aum (1934852) on Monday March 31, 2014 @09:35AM (#46620493)

    Will it be like seeing a whole new colour, or will the infrared spectrum still need to be translated into the already visible spectrum? Judging by the article it seems to be the second, but the first would be much cooler.

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      Will it be like seeing a whole new colour, or will the infrared spectrum still need to be translated into the already visible spectrum? Judging by the article it seems to be the second, but the first would be much cooler.

      Just let me insert this connector into your brain...

      • I think being able to see a new color would be a reasonable trade-off for the risks of neurosurgery.

        • by Chrisq (894406)

          I think being able to see a new color would be a reasonable trade-off for the risks of neurosurgery.

          Possibly ..... but I wouldn't want to be one of the first!

          • I don't know, the extra utility just may offset the frustration of trying to describe the new color to everyone who finds out. It would be like trying to describe green to someone who's only ever seen combinations of red and blue.
    • by NEDHead (1651195)

      Most humans have 3 color range receptors in the eye, some actually have 4 which results in a slightly extended range, and generally better color discrimination. Many other animals have receptors sensitive to colors beyond our visibility (in both directions). It is also being researched to provide missing color receptor genes for the color blind.

      So, it follows that it will be possible to extend the overall range of color perception in the future. While interesting, and perhaps making the article's tech ob

    • by jythie (914043)
      It would probably be monochrome, so black and white vision.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Well, you may not need xray.

      There was an issue a few years ago with some Sony cameras which more or less allowed you to make swimsuits transparent and the like.

      In other words, with the right spectrum of infrared, people on beaches might appear naked already. I believe other fabrics under the right circumstances are essentially transparent to UV.

      I predict this will be the leading use of these contacts.

  • by barlevg (2111272) on Monday March 31, 2014 @09:44AM (#46620583)
    For practical purposes (like night vision), sure, definitely useful. But for everyday "recreational" use, you really don't want to see people's blood vessels, etc. Given the choice, I'd much rather see UV.
    • For practical purposes (like night vision), sure, definitely useful. But for everyday "recreational" use, you really don't want to see people's blood vessels, etc. Given the choice, I'd much rather see UV.

      Are you kidding? How about, "I would shake your hand, but according to my contacts, you have a fever."

      • by barlevg (2111272)
        YMMV, but for me I think this would fall in the same category as hotel room black lights or reviewing your restaurant's last health inspection: for the most part, it's just better not to know.
    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      You don't want to see IR

      (Disclaimer: I am not a physicist, nor even a scientist).

      The thing is, people talk about detecting or seeing "IR" as if it's a single entity, much like how they talk about seeing or detecting visible light. However, "IR" covers a much, *much* wider range than visible light (*) and "near" IR- which is just outside the visible light range- arguably has a lot more in common with visible light (and how it can be recorded) than the "far" IR closer to the other end, which is used in heat-sensitive cameras.

      "

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        The article specifies mid-IR. And since the whole thing talks about cooled sensors, it's pretty clear that's what they're talking about.

        • by blincoln (592401)

          While that's true, most military night vision (which the article discusses repeatedly) is near-IR. Nearly all of the "bulky goggles" are of that type - including the one in the photo in the article, if I'm not mistaken.

          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            The article mentions the military obliquely in the snappy opening patter ("Seeing the infrared spectrum has a number of applications that go beyond the nighttime war games glamorized in adventure flicks").

            The only other mention (besides the picture) is near the end: "commando units wouldn’t be the only ones to wear souped up POV computers or contact lenses". I imagine commando units would quite like to have simple, portable mid-IR gear. Militaries seem to like sticking FLIR pods on everything they c

  • Last time I checked the average body of a living human was fairly worm and a pretty bright IR source. Anyone wearing IR contact lenses will be blinded by the heat of their own eyeballs. That is unless they are zombies. Are we expecting a zombie pandemic anytime soon?
  • by queazocotal (915608) on Monday March 31, 2014 @10:02AM (#46620745)

    A) Thermal imagers have not required cooling since approximately 1980.
    (for other than extremely specialised applications.

    B) Having a sensor does not magically mean it can be used in a contact lens.

    You need electronics, LEDs, and focussing optics in order to get it into the eye in a coherent image.

    • by bobbied (2522392)

      Oh stop it... Stop talking technical details and let the poorly educated folk have their dreams...

      Quite right you are. The advances may lead to cheaper, lighter and better devices, but I'm pretty sure you are correct. We are just not going to get something in a contact lenses that will let us see IR.

    • by BitZtream (692029) on Monday March 31, 2014 @10:41AM (#46621141)

      The eye IS the focusing optics, you don't need a whole bunch of extra stuff, you just need to shift IR a few mm into visible and let the eye and brain do what they do.

      All slashdot summaries are misleading at this stage, why do you think Taco left?

      • The problem is that doesn't work.
        This would work if you place the converter just in front of the retina. (but then it wouldn't work as the eye is not transparent to IR)
        If you place it in front of the eye lens - contact lenses count - then you need the output visible light to be going in the same direction as the input IR light.
        There are no common physical processes that can do this.
        Hence, unfortunately, you need to actually have lenses and separate emitters.

        In principle, this might change if you could have

        • If you place it in front of the eye lens - contact lenses count - then you need the output visible light to be going in the same direction as the input IR light.
          There are no common physical processes that can do this.

          Frequency-doubling crystals do this - combining two photons going in the same direction into one of twice the frequency. (That's how some green laser diodes work - bumping up infrared.) Not practical for a sensor, since you need a LOT of infrared that's IN PHASE to pull this off.

          I, too, had s

        • by lgw (121541)

          There are no common physical processes that can do this.

          There are uncommon processes however. You can "step up" the frequency of light passively, it's just a very rare effect (and of course brightness goes down significantly). "Phase" has nothing to do with it, as the concept is fairly meaningless across frequencies, excepting harmonics.

          However, I doubt that's what this is.

    • Exactly. I have night vision goggles that are not cooled. Cooling is all about signal-to-noise, not the inherent sensitivity of the CCD detector. When the body and lenses of your imaging device are giving off infrared radiation at the same frequency that you are trying to image, you have to integrate the target image that much longer to get a clear picture. Swapping the back-plane technology cannot change this. This article is a prime example of academic puffery.
  • It would be probably cheaper too

    • I'm waiting for the full cybereye replacement... I want to be able to wirelessly control them through my PAN, and get flare-comp and smartlink installed too... but I think I have to wait about 50-60 years for that...

      maybe get an occular drone too while I'm at it.

  • ... used to be easy to do. Then the companies got wind that people were using them to "see through clothing" and made it impractical for most hobbyists.

    Google Glass is one thing but as soon as people clamor OMG to the press and politicians loud enough, commercial companies will be afraid to market this to consumers and legislators may step in to criminalize the un-disclosed use of "IR vision" for non-"legitimate" (e.g. security cameras) use or even criminalize all non-"legitimate" IR use in public places.

    C

  • Are we talking night vision goggles, or thermal imagers?
  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Monday March 31, 2014 @10:48AM (#46621197)

    Yet another press release that glosses over the difference between "sensor" and "imaging system".

    Give me the best, most sensitive, highest-resolution, lowest-power, and cheapest thermal IR sensor array you can imagine, and it's just a glorified ambient thermometer unless you can focus onto it. I'm sure there are cyberpunks/steampunks/whatever who would be happy to rock germanium-lensed spectacles, and I'm sure there are body-modders who would love to have pit organs in their foreheads, but you're NOT getting a self-contained thermal-imaging contact lens.

    Oh, okay, I can imagine something that would work like an insect's compound eye, with an array of highly directional individual sensors -- but that's not what TFA is talking about, and it's not something we're likely to see in the next couple of decades.

  • I think they contact lens reference is just hype. The system needs to be powered, and what is essentially an electronic signal, caused by changing conductivity between two layers of graphene, converted to an image the eye can see. I cannot see that being done inside a contact lens: it will always require some kind of a viewer, such as binoculars or a sight. However, it could be much less bulky, and draw much less power, than current IR systems - which would probably make it much cheaper. So I could see it m

  • by Arkh89 (2870391) on Monday March 31, 2014 @11:29AM (#46621711)

    There is just one link to put in TFA : http://www.nature.com/nnano/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nnano.2014.31.html [nature.com]. Note that this paper never mentioned the word "contact lenses".
    So why? Why do we have instead a link to some stupid news site where they clearly don't have any clue on what they are talking about?

  • Cool.

    Now I can stop licking my pencil nibs, trying to develop super powers.

  • "Then you got to get sent to a slam, where they tell you you'll never see daylight again. You dig up a doctor, and you pay him 20 menthol Kools to do a surgical shine job on your eyeballs."

    What a drama queen, all he had to do was take his contacts out...

     

  • A breakthrough that could dramatically improve infrared imaging (functionality, form factor, etc.) will be patent controlled by the US Government for military and then some aftermarket product no where near the mil-specs. The ability see in the dark is awesomely powerful to military operations.

    I've researched infrared sensors (Arduino), but the easily available ones are 8x2 or 4x4 PIXELS resolutions, only good for a few feet (great for detecting heat loss in a home). I wanted to piece together a campsite

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