If you have watched sci-fi movies or TV series like Altered Carbon, you may have seen characters interacting with a computer through contact lenses in their eyes. Sci-fi movies are known for featuring extraordinary technological advances that often seem to stretch reality. But sometimes, these movies predict the coming of these devices. And smart contact lenses might just be one of these predictions.
A startup from Saratoga, California called Mojo Vision has been working on bringing augmented reality contact lenses to, well… reality. After over 5 years and more than $100 million in investments, the company has created a prototype of what the contact lenses would look like.
The Mojo Lens
The company calls the prototype Mojo Lens. The contact lens has a 14,000 PPI display, a very tiny thing barely visible to the naked eye at the center of the contact lens. When worn, the contact lens places the display directly in front of the pupil. Light from the display is focused on a small portion of the retina at the back of the eye called the fovea. The fovea contains most of the photoreceptors in the retina and hence is an optimal place to focus the light at. The sensitivity of the fovea makes for lower power usage by the contact lens. The prototype is currently powered by a device worn on the wrist and doesn’t do more than show some information on the screen.
Subsequent iterations would include some micro-electronics, such as an image sensor, a tiny single-core ARM-based processor, an eye-tracking sensor, and a communications chip. The wearable power pack would also be ditched for a tiny solid-state battery placed within the lens.
How The Lenses Could Be Used
One of the key features of the Mojo Lens is its ability to enhance human vision. This makes the product very useful to people with presbyopia and all kinds of retinal degenerative diseases. The lens can do things like magnify an image, detect hard-to-see texts, overlay lines on the edges of objects that are difficult to see, and so on.
Another really useful use case of the smart contact lens is in the provision of real-time information to industry workers and service providers. One of the demos of the prototype showcased how this would work for firefighters.
Firefighters wearing the lens could see the floor plan of a burning building overlaid over their sight. They could also see the location of other firefighters in the building. Other information such as their oxygen level, the temperature of the building, and other important data could be seen superimposed over their sight as well. These are just a few of the use cases the smart contact lens makes possible. Note that the demo wasn’t done with the lenses, but with a VR headset. The lenses still haven’t been approved for wear. Contact lenses are classified as medical devices and have to be approved by the FDA.
From the information above, you could have deduced that the contact lenses are still in the R&D stage. The company still has several hurdles to cross before we can finally see through an AR contact lens. Currently, the focus of the company is to produce a viable product to help the visually impaired. From there it would move into vertical markets with specific needs, only then would the company begin to produce the smart contact lenses for consumers.
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