The Batman portrays a vigilante still new to his mission. He uses less technology than his previous on-screen counterparts. Wingsuits and parachutes instead of an electrified cape, for example. While Bruce Wayne still has some wonderful toys, co-writer/director Matt Reeves’s film noir detective story includes tech mostly grounded in reality. The contact lenses Batman wears may seem far-fetched, but the technology already exists.
Early set photos and promotional materials led to rumors that the bat-suits glowing white eyes may make an appearance. Instead, Batman wears contact lenses. He can record and even live stream everything he sees. They also provide real-time information via facial recognition. Batman uses these tools instead of case files. They help him find clues, solve riddles in the dark with Alfred, and gain access via Selina Kyle.
In reality, all of these technologies exist. They are even integrated into various smart glasses already but the tricky part is making the components even smaller, more flexible, and safe to put in your eyes. How to power them and transmit data are key issues. As are privacy concerns. Way back in 2012, Google filed a patent for a contact lens with a camera. Applications like facial recognition and the ability to see in the dark and infrared spectrum were specifically mentioned. Samsung also filed patents in 2014, followed by Sony in 2016.
Batman’s contact lenses put names to every face. While that specifically doesn’t exist yet, there are facial recognition glasses. Intended for law enforcement and security purposes, it’s essentially a real-time application of the algorithms used to identify people in body cam and CCTV footage. Some of the databases include photos from social media. New laws and lawsuits advance as quickly as the technology. Beginning in 2018, Chinese police wore glasses with facial recognition and license plate databases to identify people on the government’s blacklist. This includes criminals but also journalists and activists.
One issue with this technology is the turnaround time. Batman’s facial recognition abilities take a few seconds to kick in, which explains the broody way he stares at people. The heads-up display is not shown on-screen until Selina is wearing the lenses. She knows that when she stares at people, it will have different implications. By the sequel, maybe Batman will optimize the process to put female users in less harm. Which could in turn make him seem less emo.
There are also glasses that trick facial recognition software. Privacy-conscious consumers can buy infrared-blocking lenses and light-reflecting rims. Either of these technologies are possible in contact lenses, but so far there doesn’t seem to be a focus on it. Novelty versions with interesting shapes, colors, and even UV reflecting abilities exist, though they have no vision correcting properties.
Mojo Vision is taking wearable technology to the next level with its smart contact lenses. The Mojo Lens will help people with visual impairments navigate the world more easily and safely. The ability to zoom, adjust contrast, track motion, and provide captions are all part of the prototype. It uses a rigid scleral lens, which is bigger than a soft contact but still designed to be comfortable. It includes a colored iris to cover up all the tech. The product requires FDA approval and is in clinical trials. But once the technology is proven, the sky’s the limit.
Mojo has already partnered with fitness brands to bring performance data for sports like running, golf, cycling, and skiing to their heads-up display. Issues include whether to use eye movement and blinking or voice control options. Currently the battery and radio functions are separate but the long-term goal is to include everything on the lens. Other components could easily integrate into the bulky Batsuit, so this likely isn’t a dealbreaker.
Innovega is developing a combination of smart contact lenses and glasses. The soft contacts are wearable as normal prescription lenses and the heads-up display is in the paired glasses. This should reduce eye strain by mimicking normal eye movements and depth of field. In The Batman, the visuals have a red tint, perhaps to pick up details in low light environments. That could however, lead to the pain Bruce Wayne has when seeing natural light.
Augmented reality can help people with vision impairments, but Innovega also markets the system to people who need to keep their hands free while accessing information. Examples on the website range from the military and surgeons to people who just want to read emails in the style of the Star Wars opening scroll.
Medical Monitoring and Drug Delivery
The Triggerfish sensor is an FDA-approved device that helps determine treatment for glaucoma. The contact, worn for a 24 hour period, provides eye pressure and other data. Collecting a full day’s worth of information includes variations that might fall through the cracks during a short office visit. It then helps determine the best level of treatment. It also comes with an antenna worn around the outside of the eye that connects to the recording device via a wire. Since it’s a temporary device, making everything wireless and small isn’t as much of a concern.
Google Glass technology, which specifically banned facial recognition, was a public failure. But it continues to influence the market. Some of the miniaturized technology developed into a glucose sensing device to help people with diabetes. The project, announced in 2014, senses glucose via moisture (tears) on the eye and alerts the wearer if levels are too low or too high via LEDs. Results were inconsistent and the project was scrapped in 2018.
In 2020, researchers in South Korea announced a working glucose-sensing contact lens with successful animal trial data. This version does not have a heads-up display but transmits wirelessly to a nearby device and sends alerts when glucose levels are out of range. Calibrations of sensors, comfort, and other issues are still being worked out. The contact lens also includes a drug delivery system to combat diabetes-related vision impairments. Based on the glucose levels, therapies can be dosed right onto the surface of the eye.
Medicated drops are often not used properly or as prescribed. They are also inefficient, sometimes delivering as little as 1% of their intended therapy. To combat this, contact lenses with time-released medication are under development. Acuvue Theravision is now FDA-approved for daily use to treat itchy eyes due to allergies. MediPrint Ophthalmics is developing contact lenses that treat glaucoma. They slowly release medication while worn continuously for 7 days.
While we don’t know if Batman’s contacts display or even monitor his biometrics, the technology exists. They could even dose him with the adrenaline he needs to keep fighting. Many questions remain that the combination of real-life technology and on-screen science fiction could tackle next. Did he give Selina his only pair? Did they transmit video from her pocket or wherever she stored them between uses? How often does Alfred watch Bruce while he is out? Can Batman turn the recording on and off while wearing them? Here’s hoping we see this useful tech in the sequel!