Scientists at a Belgian University working with a research lab have developed a spherical, curved LCD projector embedded within a contact lens which can display words and images.

Researchers at the Centre of Microsystems Technology (CMST), IMEC’s lab at the University of Ghent, say this breakthrough could help people with damaged retinas by controlling light transmission towards the iris.

The technology could also be used for augmented reality contact lenses, built-in sunglasses and irises that appear to change colour. Lead researcher Professor Herbert De Smet said that these next generation applications could be available within a few years.

"Now that we have established the basic technology, we can start working towards real applications, possibly available in only a few years time," he said.

Previously scientists have managed to integrate LEDs into contact lenses, but this has been limited to only a few pixels. The researchers at the University of Ghent and IMEC say their LCD-based technology is a big leap forward because it uses the entire display surface.

While the first prototype can only display rudimentary patterns, similar to an electronic pocket calculator, the researchers aim to develop fully autonomous electronic contact lenses embedded within this display.