Science fiction visions are taking shape. Startup Mojo Vision detailed its progress on Tuesday in developing contact lens-based augmented reality displays that provide digital layers of information on top of the real world.
This hexagonal Mojo Lens centerpiece has greenish pixels only about a quarter the width of red blood cells, each less than half a millimeter wide. “Femtoprojectors” enlarge images optically and beam the enlarged images to the retina.
Cameras that capture images of the world outside are mounted on the lenses, and electronic devices surround them. Imagery is processed, the display is controlled, and wireless communication is accomplished via a computer chip. Your eye movement is compensated with a motion tracker. Power comes from a battery that’s wirelessly recharged over night, just like a smartwatch.
“We have got this almost working. It’s very, very close,” said Chief Technology Officer Mike Wiemer, detailing the design at the Hot Chips Processor Conference. Prototypes have passed toxicology tests, and Mojo expects a fully featured prototype this year. The company hopes for a battery life of one hour for its first product. “We’re closing in on that number,” he said.
With Mojo, Microsoft’s Hololens, and other clunky, augmented reality-enabled headwear, will be leapfrogged. By outlining letters in texts or showing curb edges more clearly, Mojo Lens might help people with visual impairments. The device could also help athletes determine the distance they have ridden or their rate of heart beat without checking their other devices.
By using Mojo, Microsoft’s Hololens will be leapfrogged by clunky augmented reality head wear. It might be helpful for people with visual impairments if Mojo Lens highlights letters in text or shows edges more clearly. This device can also tell an athlete how far they have ridden or how fast their heart beat is without checking their other devices.
A long way still needs to be traveled before Mojo Vision’s lenses are available on the market. Regulatory vetting and social discomfort are essential before the device can be approved. In an earlier attempt to integrate augmented reality into eyeglasses from search giant Google, called Google Glass, people expressed concerns about the privacy implications.
“Societal acceptance will be hard to overcome simply because it will be nearly invisible to the unknowing person,” said Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Anshel Sag.
But an unobtrusive contact lens is better than bulky AR headsets, Wiemer said: “There is a challenge here making these things small enough to be socially acceptable.”
Another Google company, Verily, once proposed making a contact lens that would monitor glucose levels.) However, Google has not yet released any similar products based on the patented contact lens camera from 2014. There is also an eyewear and contact lens technology offered by Innovega, called eMacula AR.
Miniature electronics on your eye
This technology adjusts the imagery based on your eye’s movements, making Mojo Lens a key part of the AR experience. A static image would be shown to you without eye tracking on Mojo Lens. As you flicked your gaze, instead of reading a long block of text, your eyes would simply follow the movement of the text.
With Mojo, eye tracking technology is derived from smartphone accelerometers and gyroscopes.
An external device, referred to as a relay accessory, controls and processes imagery and provides an interface for Mojo Lens.
Displays and projectors don’t interfere with visual perception. According to Wiemer, the display doesn’t affect how you view the real world at all. “You can watch a movie or read a book with your eyes closed.”
The retina shows only the central area of your image, but it changes as you look in different directions, so you always see the right image. I feel like I’m looking at an endless canvas,” Wiemer said.
Are computerized contacts a good idea?
Due to 150 million people wearing contact lenses around the world, the startup selected contact lenses as a display technology. There’s no fogging and they’re lightweight. Even when you close your eyes, augmented reality will function.
Contact lens manufacturer Menicon is working with Mojo to develop their lenses. The company has raised $159 million in venture capital so far — including from New Enterprise Associates, Liberty Global Ventures and Khosla Ventures.
The contact lens technology demonstrated by Mojo Vision dates back to 2020. During a closeup of the smartglasses it looked like the smallest smartglasses in the world, Scott Stein said to me.
In a Tuesday statement, the company said it has complete hardware and software for its product, though it has not given a date for shipping.