Glasses with displays projected into your retina ? Old school. Now contact lens with displays

Engineers at the University of Washington have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights. Previously the Virtual Retina display (VRD) was invented at the University of Washington in the Human Interface Technology Lab in 1991.

Advances in printable electronics will make these systems very powerful and affordable in the future. Carbon nanotubes placed onto plastic are at 300 Mhz or the speed of a Intel Pentium 2.

“Looking through a completed lens, you would see what the display is generating superimposed on the world outside,” said Babak Parviz, a UW assistant professor of electrical engineering. “This is a very small step toward that goal, but I think it’s extremely promising.”

Contact lens with electronics being worn by a rabbit in tests

A contact lens with electronics that are mostly outside the transparent field of view part of the eye

Applications for the contact lens displays:

Drivers or pilots could see a vehicle’s speed projected onto the windshield. Video-game companies could use the contact lenses to completely immerse players in a virtual world without restricting their range of motion. And for communications, people on the go could surf the Internet on a midair virtual display screen that only they would be able to see.

A full-fledged display won’t be available for a while, but a version that has a basic display with just a few pixels could be operational “fairly quickly,” according to Parviz.

Future improvements will add wireless communication to and from the lens. The researchers hope to power the whole system using a combination of radio-frequency power and solar cells placed on the lens.

Previously head mounted displays were considered leading edge

Both head mounted displays and contact lens displays enable augmented reality.

A virtual retinal display (VRD), also known as a retinal scan display (RSD), is a new display technology that draws a raster display (like a television) directly onto the retina of the eye. The user sees what appears to be a conventional display floating in space in front of them.

Virtual retina display overview from the US navy

Virtual retina display graphic from Microvision

This is a see through system. The see through systems for glasses have been commercialized (admittedly limited to military and some car applications) and would have similar issues of focus and comfort.

This 14page pdf discusses various aspects of these systems.

For heads up displays:
Refocusing the eyes can cause fatigue, so an aircraft’s heads up display is “focused at infinity” allowing the pilot to read the display without shifting focus. When used in automobiles, the display is focused closer, somewhere near the end of the hood. Motorcycle helmets also have a relative focal point for maximum comfort.

For virtual retina displays:
VRD has been commercialized in specialized sectors of the display market such as automobile repair and some parts of the military.

Microvision describes their see through display glasses, helmet mounted systems and other wearable displays.

See through display glasses

A 2 page brief on how see through displays on glasses work.

The claimed viewing experiences for see through displays (using glasses with built in displays. The image is perceived and designed to be sharp at a certain preceived distance:

Some references discussing how the virtual image perception works.
NASA discusses some of the virtual miage perception of see through systems

A University of Washington Master’s thesis from 1995 discusses the perception of the virtual image for see through systems.

A lot of head mounted displays of various types are on the market

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Improvements from basic to advanced nanofactories could be quite short. Cost of raw materials could stay differentiated for a while.

Duplication estimates for assemblers and nanofactories (primitive to advanced)

Say you have a 10 kg nanofactory invented in an arbitrary country on January 1st, 2020. Let's say that the design is similar to the Phoenix nanofactory, in which case we'll work with the following assumptions:
The size, mass, energy requirement, and duplication time of this nanofactory design depend heavily on the properties of the fabricator. ... a tabletop nanofactory (1x1x1/2 meters) might weigh 10 kg or less, produce 4 kg of diamondoid (~10.5 cm cube) in 3 hours, and require as little as fifteen hours to produce a duplicate nanofactory.
Say that this first nanofactory is used to make a duplicate nanofactory, then both nanofactories are used to make duplicates, and so on, until you have 200 million units, ready for distribution to the majority of households in the nation. How long would this take? Under 28 duplication cycles, or approximately 18 days.
In his 1992 technical analysis of this factory approach to molecular manufacturing systems [208], Drexler outlines an architecture for a system capable of manufacturing macroscopic product objects of mass ~1 kg and ~20 cm dimensions in a cycle time of ~1 hour, starting from a feedstock solution consisting of small organic molecules. The feedstock molecules enter the system through a molecular sorting and orientation mechanism (Figure 4.34), pass through several stages of convergent assembly using mill-style mechanisms (Figure 4.35), and then pass through several more stages of convergent assembly using manipulator-style mechanisms (Figure 4.29). The full system has 10 stages with progressively larger machines assembling progressively larger components at progressively lower frequencies (Table 4.1). If the manufacturing system can manufacture all of the components of which it is itself composed, Drexler’s proposed desktop manufacturing system (system mass ~1 kg) would also be capable of self-replication in about 1 hour.

Finally, the entire factory is enclosed in a suitable casing with a mechanism to output final product without contaminating the workspace. In the highest level nanofactory layout, the overall nanofactory shape is a rectangular volume (Figure 4.59). The exterior shell consists of six flat panels, with each panel: (1) providing support to anchor the interior and prevent the working volume from collapsing under atmospheric pressure, and (2) supporting each other. Panels are hollow and pressurized, held rigid and flat using internal tension members set at a slight angle. The design is easily scalable to tabletop size, with a ~1 meter factory producing eight ~5 cm blocks per product cycle. A tabletop nanofactory measuring 1 meter x 1 meter x 0.5 meters might weigh 10 kg or less (without coolant), produce 4 kg of diamondoid (~10 cm cube) in 3 hours, and could require as little as twelve hours to produce a duplicate nanofactory


I think that there will be molecular fab variants and some cost differentials. The cost differentials could persist for static molecular products versus ones with actuators. Just as the black and white versus color printing cost difference persists.

DNA nanotech/synthetic biology is here first now. DNA synthesis is still relatively low volume.

A graphene fabber (1 atom thick) could be a special purpose fab that makes powerful 2D electronics and computing devices. That could arrive before the more classically envisioned diamondoid nanofactory.

Most diamondoid materials used for nanomachinery would be constructed from the atoms of 12 elements in the Periodic Table: carbon (C), silicon (Si) or germanium (Ge) in Group IV, nitrogen (N) or phosphorus (P) in Group V, oxygen (O) or sulfur (S) in Group VI, fluorine (F) or chlorine (Cl) in Group VII, boron (B) or aluminum (Al) in Group III, and, of course, hydrogen (H).

With the 1 nanometer resolution optical microscope project (target 5 years), possible significant scale adiabatic quantum computers next year (1024 qubits Dwave systems) and maybe millions of qubits within 10 years, million artificial neuron systems now and billion neurons within 10 years, petaflops now and exaflops within 10 years, all of the control and tools we are getting for manipulating 1-30 nanomaters and possible breakthroughs with diamond mechanosynthesis (Freitas, Merkle et al), DNA nanotech now, UK ideas factory projects, directed self assembly, rotaxanes etc...

I do not see how it would take longer than 2020 for molecular fabs .

In 2020, you would have
billions of artificial neuron AI and automation systems.
Millions if not billions of qubit quantum simulators and computers.
exaflop machines, the first experimental diamond dimer placements made over 10 years before, synthesizing gram or kilogram quantities of DNA and polymers... molecular fabs should be done as well.

I am leaning towards thinking cruder but very useful systems by 2016 and then moving up the refinement cycle at a quickening pace. Versions 2 and 3 in 2017. Version 4-8 in 2018. Version 9-20 in 2019.

extended DNA nano, with bubble labs on a chip could get pretty interesting and powerful in the 2008-2015 timeframe


Can you tell me if you have worked out any approximate timeline for development of molecular fabs? First would come special purpose molecular fabs which would make only one product by molecular assembly. Over time, the fabs would become more and more general purpose--able to make more types and variations of devices with appropriate programming and raw material.

A truly generic molecular assembler which could make copies of itself, as well as many other products, would seem intuitively to be much farther away, in time.

Do you agree? To me the difference in difficulty in making special purpose vs. general purpose molecular assemblers is profound.