How many times have you missed a fantastic shot because you couldn't get your smartphone (or camera) out fast enough? Both Samsung and Sony are hoping to solve that problem for you. Both companies have applied for patents (Sony in the U.S., Samsung in South Korea) for a smart contact lens that can capture still shots or video literally in the blink of an eye.

That's actually how you would take the picture, at least in Sony's version, by blinking. The device would somehow be able to identify the difference between normal blinking and deliberate blinking to activate the camera, based on how long the eyes are closed or a particular blinking pattern.

Sony's version would appear to be the more sophisticated of the two, incorporating auto-focus, aperture control, and stabilization to counteract the "blur caused by motion of the eyeball." And, rather than sending images to a smartphone, Sony's version would actually be able to store pictures right on the lens. It would of course also be able to send pictures to a smartphone or other device wirelessly. Both patent applications also include an internal screen that would play back those images (or, presumably, the latest Game of Thrones episode) directly into your eyes.

Needless to say, picture-taking contact lenses raise all kinds of privacy concerns. Businesses that banned Google Glass to prevent clandestine photography may be hard-pressed to distinguish who's wearing smart lenses and who isn't.

Of course, this technology is still years away. The patents don't appear to have been granted yet, even though Samsung filed its application in 2014. And even if a patent was granted, it wouldn't mean these products would be on the market any time soon.

After all, Google has been working on its glucose-monitoring contact lens for diabetics for a couple of years with no product launch in sight. Last fall, Google was awarded a patent for a smart contact lens that supposedly would not only measure glucose but also pollen, allergens, or pollutants in the air, scan bar codes and monitor blood alcohol among other things. Oh, and it's solar-powered.

I'm pretty sure picture-taking contacts aren't right around the corner, which may be good news for those who don't want to worry about their every move being recorded. On the other hand, it could be bad news for law enforcement, since eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable.

But it's fun to imagine a future where all you need to do is blink to take a picture. And with at least three giant tech companies working on the problem, they're bound to hit the market someday. Just don't let one fall out and roll under the couch.

Published on: May 3, 2016
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