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Sci-fi futurist Vernor Vinge saw this coming in his "Rainbows End," but it could be a future even nearer than he thought.

According to U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, researchers at Ghent University in Belgium have developed a spherical curved LCD display which can be embedded in contact lenses to relay projected images using wireless technology.

So far the lenses can display simple images, such as a letter or symbol, but the ability to show full text messages may be coming soon — and if you can show text it won't be long before you can show images ... and then video.

"Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working towards real applications, possibly available in only a few years," said Ghent University Professor Herbert De Smet, in the article.

It's not a far leap from that to the future Vinge saw, in which augmented reality overlays for literally every surface or person were projected onto users' contact lenses, creating a personal reality for each person wearing lenses.

And of course, that reality would have to include advertisements beamed, in essence, directly onto people's retinas.

According to The Telegraph:

"This is not science fiction," said Jelle De Smet, the chief researcher on the project, who believes commercial applications for the lenses will be available within five years.

"This will never replace the cinema screen for films. But for specific applications it may be interesting to show images such as road directions or projecting text messages from our smart phones straight to our eye."

The innovation is the first step towards "fully pixelated contact lens displays" with the same detail as a television screen

That's the thing to keep in mind when people talk about something like "Minority Report" as the future of digital out-of-home advertising: Whatever we've yet thought of, it probably doesn't go far enough.

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Christopher Hall
Christopher is the editor of DigitalSignageToday.com. A longtime freelance writer and reporter, he's bringing a fresh perspective and critical take on the industry.
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