[Ben Krasnow] Sticks LEDs In His Contacts Just For Kicks


[Ben Krasnow] wrote in, saying that every so often a news story appears covering a project in which researchers embed a single pixel LED display inside a contact lens. The most recent article he saw featured a contact-wearing rabbit, and not being one to shy away from damaging his own body in the name of science, he decided to try the experiment on himself.

He started out by soldering a tiny 0402 SMD LED to a hand wound coil, laminating the display between a pair of regular contact lenses. After trying to adhere the lenses to one another using water, he opted to tack the edges together with a pair of hot tweezers, making for a more secure but uncomfortable piece of eyewear. The LED is powered by a simple inductive coil he put together, which uses a spark gap transmitter to flash the LED on and off.

If you’re not freaked out by people sticking things in their eyes, be sure to check out the video below to see [Ben’s] augmented contact lens in action. While it might not give him Terminator-like vision, it’s pretty awesome considering he pieced it together in his workshop in his spare time.


86 thoughts on “[Ben Krasnow] Sticks LEDs In His Contacts Just For Kicks

  1. Look at how blood shot his eye is by the end of the video. It makes my eyes water just watching it.. and that horrific scene with him trying to get the contact to sit properly on his eye…


  2. I read about another Do It Your-Self person in the news who was using spring water to decontaminate their contacts and a parasite ate her cornea out.

    I was in the NICU for two weeks and they made me use Purell, handwashing sanitizer and Avgard on my hands just to enter. Every time I touched my camera or cell phone, they made me put Purell hand soap with alcohol on my hands. Here you have someone contaminating their contacts to put something in their eye and Purell makes your hands weepy after a while. And every week there was at least one mom crying.

    This blog post is unsafe and in poor taste.

    1. Unsafe maybe, but in poor taste? Aside from the infection issues, I think it’s quite an interesting project. I don’t know how hard it would be to embed another tiny lens to bring it into focus. Perhaps by deforming the contact lens with heat?

    2. This blog post is documentation- “Look, someone is hacking!” Not “Look this is the safest thing to do, ever!”

      Even if he kills himself doing this, there still a journalistic quality of reporting on it. I like this post very much. I don’t plan on doing it, but it’s still nice to see.

    3. Paranoia is a worse parasite than the one that supposedly ate a persons cornea – Theres doing experiments where you have a good idea about what you’re doing and then there are people that unknowingly do something dangerous. There’s a world of difference.

    4. Under-developed babies with poor immune systems in a NICU != an adult with a (presumably) fully intact immune system. You’re not even in the same ballpark.

      Trauma to the eye would be much more likely than an infection issue. Think about it. The contact lenses are sterile, distilled water is sterile, and the electronic components probably never came close to a human being before being packaged and shipped. The most dirty thing he stuck in his eye was his finger!

  3. I think it’s cool. Unless you’ll get into some high-power electromagnetic field that will make the LED burn the lens and possibly your eye.

    I always wanted some display to be unnoticeably embedded into glases. But i don’t know how to make the optics part of this…

  4. For a proper device, have the contact lens closest to the eye be an etalon filter of the same wavelength of the LED, so that it is impossible to blind yourself from LED emission through the back of the LED. That, and use thin film deposition of the electronics on the front, so that the size/flexibility of the contact is not compromised. And then: bam! Electronically controlled glowing red eyes.

  5. I don’t get what the big deal is… As someone who has worn contact lenses his whole life, and rides a motorcycle, I have been through much worse. I’ve had just about every bug there is smack into my eyes (and stay there for a bit) at 30+ mph. Needless to say, I now wear safety glasses, but still… This isn’t really that bad. I have also had plenty of jobs which inadvertently led to dubious substances (sewage and the like) splash up all over my face (and eyes). Sure, I’m an idiot, but this is by comparison not so bad. Worn for what probably amounted to 30 seconds max, and left in a solution which disinfects,is hardly that much of a risk. I REALLY hope all those out there use well sealed goggles when they take a shower or wash dishes, lest some of that water splash up into your eyes….

  6. I don’t get the hate, shoving coils between 2 contact lenses is done somewhat often for eyetracking (he even mentions this in the video). And disinfecting a couple of lenses is also pretty darn trivial, I wouldn’t worry about infection the only thing is the possibility of scratching his cornea if the 2 contacts did not adhere to each other very well.

  7. He disinfected the lenses before he put them in. Please stop the silly flame war.

    Ignore the flames Ben, you do good work, and despite what people here are saying, you are also being relatively safe at it.

    I enjoyed this. Please continue the great hacks!

  8. Odds of infection seem very low, he says he’s been wearing contacts for 10+ years, he knows what he’s doing in that regard to making sure they’re okay to wear. This is definitely a ‘do not try at home’ project, but aren’t a lot on Hack a Day these kinds of projects? There was only one project I’ve seen on this site that was truly scary and dangerous: The homemade underwater helmet that used a common air compressor to supply air to the diver. This guy isn’t going to die from this. Give it a rest people and just enjoy the article for what it is: A hack.

  9. Can the eye even focus on something placed on the cornea? I know in photography you can’t focus on things actually placed on the lens.

    I always thought vision devices like that would have to be in glasses and not on contacts.

      1. Fuuuu, and I normally roll my eyes at the people who don’t read/watch the source material before asking questions. Oh well.

        But in my defense, not exactly hip on watching someone poke stuff into their eye.

  10. i dont think anyone is really flaming…well, maybe some people, but my reaction was more of a “goddamn i hate how bloodshot that eye is” rather than me actually giving a shit if the guy goes blind from it.

  11. This is not unsafe or dangerous, sure it looks horrible, but non of the components are touching his eye, nor is his finger. The only part actually touching his eye is the clean and smooth lens.

  12. What a hero! Done in the true spirit of early scientific pioneers. Madame Curie didn’t stop to think about the damage she was doing, she just thought it was cool glowie stuff! This is great work that someone can build on.

  13. Awsome Hack my hat off to you sir. after viewing the video i was quite looking forward to reading some comments from seasoned hackers giving positive feedback and information improving on his ideas but sigh mostly flamers and people grossed out by eye touching, i agree its a sensitive area to mess around with but true pioneering work allmost allways has an element of danger and i say good on you for doing it to your self instead ov on a defensless animal… on achieving a better seal between the contacts maybee build some sort of form fitted circular heating clamp sealing the whole thing at once like this will avoid the pinching and keep a better more comfortable shape, to creat a true AR disply could it be possible to modulate the incoming light instead of useing leds? create images by dimming select areas of your vision? some sort of micro diffration grating? im not very clued up to optics and exactly how focusing works but off the top of my head is it possible to creat an image that when viewed out of focus becomes visable, lyk viwing it normally it would jst look a blurry mess but then focus on something in the distance and it becomes clear. anyway enough of my ramblings and keep up the good work

  14. For all the effort: the relatively large coils (inner and outer) grab the observers attention far more than the tiny dim red light. Maybe if the inner coil had black varnish instead of red, it would be less noticeable and attention could possibly shift between the big round coil encircling the eye, and possibly, the tiny red dot in the middle of the pupil.

  15. Ignore the haters. They flick desperately between the TV and interspazz looking for anything they can whine about in a desperate attempt to convince themselves that they have a purpose.

    1. Sorry – accidentally reported this comment. Glad your eye is ok. :-)

      Seriously poor implementation from a practical and usability standpoint, however. That’s what bothers me the most. It’s not like this is proof of concept allowing for a more functional future hack – this guy is limited to a SINGLE PIXEL unfocused display – a vibrating earpiece could convey more information. Glasses with LEDs would be far more useful.

      What about glasses with tiny dots etched in the lens in a standard checkerboard matrix- too small to be noticeable with everyday wear – that could be edge lit by LEDs ringing the frame? One could actually have an useful size (32×32?) dot matrix display then….

  16. In all fairness has anyone actually been hurt trying to imitate a hack posted here, or doing a hack (that has been posted here)?

    I always see all this “onoes it’s not safe for x,y and z” but I mean typically the really dangerous stuff is fairly difficult to attempt in the first place and i’m sure obtaining the parts and information you need, leaves plenty of time for someone to talk you out of it.

    The dangerous stuff on hackaday is not easy to imitate. This isn’t like kids trying to do a powerbomb on a table imitating wwf.

  17. I didn’t read all the comments, so pardon me if this has already been mentioned.

    Safety isn’t really a big issue as long as two things are observed: sterility and smooth blepharal and ocular surfaces of the lens assembly. To ensure both, you might try using gelatin confined between the two lenses to seal the coil between the lenses. Gelatin is easily sterilized (microbiologists do it daily to fill Petri dishes) and should allow adherence of the lenses without distorting either blepharal or ocular surface of the assembly. In any event, a good seeing-eye dog would be something to keep handy.

  18. Speaking as a contact lens wearer I have two points to make:

    1) He’s using disinfectant/cleaning fluid. Risk of infection will be the same as wearing normal contacts ie, there but minimal.

    2) I’m surprised he’s bothered to even attempt it at home. Contacts are a pain to work with and to get the results he wants, I think he’s going to need a way to actually make contact lenses and use some seriously high quality and expensive lab equipment in order to add electronics to it (probably via printing or some other form of depositing).

    There’s already properly funded labs working towards making contacts do a lot more.

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