Since 2015, a California-based company called Mojo Vision has been developing smart contact lenses. Like smart glasses, the idea is to put assistive AR graphics in front of your eyes to help you complete daily tasks. Now, a working prototype brings us closer to seeing the final product.
In a blog post this week, Mojo Vision CEO Drew Perkins said he was the first to “make an on-eye demonstration of a feature-complete augmented reality smart contact lens.” In an interview with CNET, he said that he is only wearing one contact at a time for an hour-long period. Eventually, Mojo Vision would like users to be able to wear two Mojo lenses at once and create 3D visual overlays, the publication said.
According to his blog, the CEO could see through the contact a compass and an on-screen teleprompter with a quote on it. He also recalled to CNET seeing a green, monochromatic image of Albert Einstein.
At the center of the lens is a Micro LED display with 14,000 pixels per inch. It’s just 0.02 inches (0.5 mm) in diameter with a 1.8-micron pixel pitch. Perkins claimed it was “the smallest and densest display ever built for dynamic content.”
The overall focus was on physics and electronics miniaturization in developing connectivity, Perkins wrote. Mojo Lens developed its power management system with a “medical-grade micro-battery” and a proprietary power management integrated circuit.
The Mojo lens also uses a custom-configured magnetometer (CNET noted that it drives the Perkins compass), accelerometer, and gyroscope for tracking. The goal is that the AR is still visible when you move your eyes, Perkins wrote. Eye movement is essential as there is no gesture or voice control like some smart glasses like Ray-Ban Stories. The entire user interface is based on eye-tracking.
One of the biggest obstacles facing smart glasses is how cumbersome and awkward they can look. Some devices, such as the Stories and Neural Air, use a sunglasses-like appearance to counter this.
A contact lens looks like it has the potential to be even more discreet than the AR headgear presented in the form of regular Ray-Bans. But, as CNET noted, the current prototype uses an Arm M0 processor that you have to wear around your neck. It wirelessly sends information to the lens “and back to the computer that tracks eye motion data for research,” the publication said. Perkins’ blog said the technology required a custom ASIC design that uses a 5 GHz radio and processor “that transmits sensor data from the lens and streams AR content to micro LEDs.”
In its current state, this seems like a major drawback to consumers. Being forced to wear anything around your neck can be cumbersome, even if it’s a tiny chip. And it is not clear how hot the device gets.
CNET reported that the current prototype also uses a cap with an integrated antenna for easy connecting; However, we would expect it to be removed from the final product.
There is no fixed release date for the Mojo lens, which could be the first AR contact lens to reach consumers. Near-term goals include potential partners, investors and journalists to try out smart lenses.
“With this progress, we now have a testing platform to help us refine and create Mojo lenses that will eventually lead to submission to the FDA for market approval,” Perkins wrote. “To accomplish this, we will conduct a number of clinical studies to test capabilities and provide feedback on software and apps.”
Perkins’s blog suggested that people could move around with smart contacts within 10 years. He portrayed a world where athletes wear smart contacts for focused, advanced training. He also described using smart contacts to display useful information, such as when an Uber is coming to pick you up from the airport or physical and mental health information.