The display holds a wireless antenna to collect the graphics signal from your personal-area-network computer and send back commands, another wireless system to collect power wirelessly in the same way wireless charging pads claim to be able to recharge cell phones and all the circuitry to make them all work together.
The circuits are embedded in a single transparent sapphire chip with a micro light-emitting diode to produce images perceived as much larger than they are because they're so horrifyingly close to the eye itself.
So far the whole thing is so lab that it's several stages of testing away from being poked into humans.
The team, led by the University of Washington's Babak Praviz, published in the Institute of Physics' Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering (free registration required at IOP.org) an article describing tests of the device in the eye of a rabbit.
The rabbit survived with no ill effects, but did complain constantly about display lag causing its game performance to deteriorate and the quality of its entertainment media being jerky and out of focus.
Why would I want this?
The potential of high quality displays integrated into contact lenses or eyeglasses is huge.
At its simplest, the heads-up display in a wearable monitor would eliminate the need to constantly look down at a GPS and away from the oncoming traffic it inexplicably refuses to show, even when it's trying to kill you both.
Augmented reality applications such as Layar for Android would be incomparably more effective if they could display street names, give you the name of acquaintances that slipped your mind just as you're about to shake hands and other data-access tasks that would otherwise have to be done on a laptop or by standing at a party wearing evening clothes, staring at no one and typing with your thumbs.
Why it doesn't work yet
There are two big problems with the contacts so far:
First, the wireless projector can power the lens from about a meter away if it's not in an eye. When the contact lens is in the eye the power projector has to be within 2 cm. That means not only carrying the battery with you, but probably tying it around your head. At least, for these earliest versions.
The other problem is that the first version displays only one pixel.
Univ. Washington Dept. of Electrical Engineering