This startup wants to put a small screen on a contact lens

A new Silicon Valley startup is trying to build the “first true smart contact lens in the world” by placing a screen in front of your eye that can improve your world view. The startup, Mojo Vision, showed a very early prototype at meetings at CES last week and is now ready to start talking about product development.

Mojo Vision hopes to first create a smart contact lens that can help people with low vision by showing improved world overlays, sharper details or approaches to help them see. But that reality seems to be far away. The prototype shown at CES included a green monochrome screen that was connected to a large battery, and the company still needs to obtain approval from the Food and Drug Administration to eventually send it to consumers, particularly for their medical use cases. .

Mojo’s technology is integrated into a hard scleral lens, which has a bulbous portion that is slightly above the surface of the eye. Mojo Vision claims to have a 14,000 ppi screen (the iPhone 11 has a 326 ppi screen, by comparison), as well as an image sensor, radio and motion sensor that will be incorporated to help superimpose and stabilize the images. While Mojo showed a lens that says it includes all those components, we don’t show a unit that will work completely. Apparently, the display technology worked when it was kept close to the eye (we were not allowed to insert it), but it required an external battery and a processor to function. The company says that people would have to disinfect their contacts every night and that it would be recharged through a patented induction system.

As part of the demonstration, Mojo demonstrated how a screen placed over a person’s eye could help them see in the dark, especially if a person already has low vision. The demonstration was based on an edge detection algorithm to show where the objects were placed in a room. It worked, but again, the contact was on a larger base and did not work within the small form factor.

The ultimate goal is to make the contact look a bit like what Google Glass was supposed to be: a screen that can show you “useful and timely information” without forcing you to take out your phone. With its much smaller size, a smart contact lens could avoid a lot of social obstacles that Google Glass initially faced; You simply have the much harder challenge of turning your technology into a smaller object than a penny. The company says people will likely have to use an additional accessory that would provide the data connection and processor for contacts, and the team also suggested that people would use eye tracking to control what they see. I demonstrated the eye tracking software while using an HTC Vive VR headset to get an idea of ​​how the UI could be and found that eye tracking was exhausting. The team says people get used to it, but I had a headache after only a few minutes.

Mojo Vision imagines that its intelligent contact is sold to both consumers and companies, with the first versions that help people with visual disabilities. The company has raised more than $ 100 million in funds to build its technology, but for now, it is still in development. There is no exact timeline for when you expect the first smart contacts to reach the market. although Mojo says he expects to have a product launched in the next two years.

Ultimately, Mojo could encounter the same pitfalls that many wearables face: problems with interoperability between platforms. Your use case for people with visual disabilities is unique and potentially useful, but for a wider audience of consumers, you need a legitimate justification for people wanting to use contacts every day. (The company did not say how much it believes these contacts would cost, but it did say that people would have to replace them every year.) Connected contacts could be useful for Android users who want to receive notifications in front of them and do not. I want to wear AR lenses. But like any other portable device, Mojo could have difficulties when it comes to iPhone users who want to access iMessage.

Mojo has apparently achieved one of his biggest obstacles: embedding a small screen in a contact lens, but he still needs to prove that the small form factor can work by itself and, beyond that, show that society feels comfortable with the idea of ​​AR Contacts.

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