According to Government Technology, engineers at the University of Washington have developed contact lenses with integrated circuitry. Although the lenses have only been tested on animals, researchers are working on having electronic lenses overlay a display over a person’s visual field without impairing sight. Researchers hope that the lenses, once completed, will allow users to zoom in on distant objects and see useful facts. Future applications might allow drivers and pilots to see their direction and speed projected across their view or to surf the Web without a monitor. The circuit components would be powered by integrated solar cells and a wireless radio-frequency receiver.
Electronic contacts lenses gives rise to interesting questions about their potential use. Could a zoom function and connection to the Net allow drivers to record and transmit the license plates of reckless drivers to insurance companies and local police? Lior Strahilevitz’s superb article “‘How’s My Driving’ for Everyone (and Everything?)” contemplated the use of technologies to report driver misconduct to assist the police in combating dangerous driving, reduce information assymetries in the insurance market, improve the tort system, and alleviate driver frustration over the current feeling of helplessness in the face of reckless driving. As the article demonstrates, the virtual anonymity of drivers magnifies dangerous behavior on the road because drivers do not suffer social disapproval for poor driving and have a profound sense that they will never get caught. These lenses could fundamentally alter that sense of anonymity on the road and could deter antisocial behavior. The bionic eye could play an important role in altering behavior and may raise privacy concerns worth discussing.