If you like taking photos but hate having to hold a camera in your hand, the solution may be on its way: Sony has filed a patent for a contact lens that snaps pictures. All you have to do is blink and the lens takes a photo.
According to the patent, the high-tech lens will have a camera that can zoom, focus, stabilize images, and adjust its aperture. The photos are automatically sent to a phone or other device or can be displayed in front of the wearer's eyes, no other screen needed. The way they're taken is fairly simple: A sensor on the lens detects pressure from the eyelid and snaps the photo right before or after your blink.
It's the perfect chance to see what actually happens in the world around you while you're sneezing.
The lens also lets you take photos without people around you knowing, which is pretty disconcerting--and was one of the main criticisms of the failed Google Glass. That very issue was why, in 2013, eight members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to then-Google CEO Larry Page asking him to address Glass's privacy issues. It's also part of the reason that 72 percent of Americans said they wouldn't use the product.
Of course, phones and tablets already make it easy enough to be a tech-literate creeper these days. Snapping a photo of the bizarrely dressed person on the subway is as easy as pretending you're reading a text.
But a device-free camera with a zoom lens directly on your eyeball is next-level voyeurism. Google Glass, for all its privacy concerns, at least looked noticeably different than a regular pair of glasses. If anything, its funky design drew extra attention to the wearer. (That might have been a desired consequence for its wearers, but that's beside the point.)
Sony's contacts, on the other hand, would be completely invisible. Every person could be an unwilling, unknowing subject in the wearer's creepy collection of photos--there's no telling how many hard drives we'd all appear on. And it would just be a matter of time until facial recognition technology became part of the equation, at which point you could kiss your anonymity goodbye.
Of course, a patent doesn't guarantee Sony's lenses will ever come to fruition. Nor is Sony the only company to explore high-tech, internet-connected contacts. Google last year filed a patent for a solar-powered lens that detects health factors like air pollutants, body temperature, and blood-alcohol and glucose levels. By comparison, these real world problems seem like a more pressing reason for the advanced, microscopic technology.
There's also the existential question that all technological advances face: Does this discovery really make life easier? The argument already can be made that high megapixel phone cameras and one-click filters have sapped some of the joy and value out of photography as an art form. Squinting to blur the background or adjust the lighting removes all the fun of using your camera to capture the perfect shot.
Google's patent has it right. Focusing on packing technology into health-centric gadgets could legitimately improve our lives--and maybe save them. Glass also had the right idea when it came to augmented reality, which could have huge benefits in workplace training, and in the education and medical fields.
Loading this advanced technology onto a tiny, flexible contact lens is a huge feat and could help pursue noble--and profitable--goals. But let's leave the picture-taking to cameras, please.