contact lens
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
October 2, 2020 ·  6 min read

Contact Lenses Could Give Your Eyes Superpowers

Imagine contact lenses that didn’t just improve your vision, but gave your eyes superpowers? These new augmented reality contact lenses can almost do just that. This is everything you need to know about this exciting new technology.

Mojo Vision’s Augmented Reality Contact Lenses

Mojo Vision has taken technology that you can find in smart glasses or a VR headset and are translating that into a contact lens. (1) Not only will these lenses help improve your vision, but when you move your eye in a certain direction, you can find information as you would on your phone (1):

  • The weather
  • Your to-do list and calendar
  • Maps
  • Music

This project has been in motion since 2015, however, the research for it dates back to 2008. Having kept their plans in stealth-mode for more than three years, they are finally ready to go public about the upcoming product. The consumer model is still two to three years away, but nevertheless, it is an exciting prospect. (1)

“We’re really confident about this working,” said VP of product and marketing Steve Sinclair.“That’s why we’ve come out of stealth, because we’re seeing all the pieces coming together into a product that does everything we want it to do.” (1)

The Origin

It is said that necessity is the driving force for invention, so it is no surprise that two of the three co-founders of Mojo Vision are two people who don’t have great vision. (1)

The first of these men is CEO Drew Perkins. Perkins has co-founded several companies already, including optical networking company Infera in 2007 and cable network architecture company Gainspeed in 2012. (1)

While acting as CEO of Gainspeed he developed cataracts. Cataracts are a common vision problem that causes the cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of your eye, to become cloudy. Perkins had surgery to correct for as much as this as possible, however, his mid-range vision was still rather limited. (1)

This experience is what pushed him to sell Gainspeed and pursue the idea of “the bionic eye”.

“I thought, ‘How can I give people this kind of super-vision?’” he said. “There’s got to be a way to give people advanced or elevated vision without surgery.” (1)

The second co-founder and now Chief Science Officer is Michael Deering. The former Sun Microsystems engineer also suffers from poor vision and was having similar thoughts. He was an expert in the field of artificial intelligence, computer vision, and virtual reality. He left Sun in 2001 with the goal of figuring out how to have a micro-display either embedded into a contact lens or actually implanted into the eye itself. By 2008 he actually had some success. (1)

How Augmented Reality Contact Lenses Work

Mojo’s latest display is made of 70,000 pixels in a space that is less than half a millimeter across – that’s smaller than a single grain of sand. It is positioned so that it sits right in front of the pupil and projects light to a specific area of the retina at the back of the eye. (1)

This area is called the fovea. The Fovea is responsible for seeing the fine details of the objects we are looking at. It is a small indentation at the back of the retina that contains nearly all of its nerve endings. This is what allows us to see things crisp, clear, and in detail, as opposed to the blurrier images we get in our peripherals. (1)

Other components of the Mojo lens will include (1):

  • A single-core ARM-based processor and image sensor
  • Eye-tracking sensor and communications chip
  • A thin-film, solid-state battery within the lens (first version)

The lens will rely on an internet connection, most likely provided by a smartphone, for some of its functions. (1)

Read: Meet the Frostbitten Cat That Has Become the First in the World to Receive Four Prosthetic Limbs

Possible Applications For Augmented Reality Contact Lenses

Mojo is not looking at using augmented reality (AR) technology for just regular, consumer use. They want to use it to improve as many functions as possible. Currently, they are working on a prototype that will be used by firefighters that will enable them to do their job faster, safer, and more effectively. (1)

One of the biggest challenges when a firefighter enters a burning building is knowing what they are coming into. Normally, thick smoke makes it very hard to see. (1) The lens is able to give them valuable information they wouldn’t otherwise have, including (1):

  • Floor plans and placement of things like tables and chairs
  • Symbols showing the position of the other firefighters
  • Oxygen tank level
  • Communication signal strength
  • Alerts warning them to exit the building quickly

It allows them to survey and see the situation without having to set down tools like axes or a hose to look at a screen. (1)

Mojo is working with Motorola to develop this technology for first responders and is also in conversation with the U.S. Department of Defense about a potential application for the military. (1)

The company is also hoping to develop a version for the hospitality and service industry that allows concierges to greet guests based on information brought up on the lens when the guest walks in. (1)

Vision Enhancement

While all of these potential applications are very exciting, the first lens will be focused on helping the 258 million people worldwide who suffer from some degree of vision impairment. It should be available in the next two to three years. (1)

The lens will be able to help people with man vision loss problems. It will be able to display the text written on a road sign that the wearer couldn’t otherwise read. It will be able to detect objects in front of people, magnify objects and display them on parts of the retina that can still see well, fix shadowing and lighting, and display lines to define objects so the wearer can see them more clearly. (1)

Optometrist and Mojo’s VP of medical devices Ashley Tuan says that this technology could greatly increase many people’s quality of life. (1)

“We can give them the essential tools they need for mobility,” she explains. “They just want to feel that they are normal. They don’t want people to feel pity for them or take advantage of them.” (1)

Mojo has been approved by the FDA and was admitted into the administration’s Breakthrough Devices Program. This program will help them to get the lenses approved as a medical device. More studies as well as clinical trials to prove their safety and effectiveness still need to occur, however, before they are granted that certification. (1)

For Consumers

For the everyday consumer, these lenses will be focused on making regular life a little easier. This will include items like (1):

  • Airport directions
  • Showing you where your uber driver is and giving details without having to look at your phone
  • Video display of who is on your porch, ringing your doorbell

Optometrists will be crucial, as they have to send information about the consumer’s eyes to Mojo in order for the company to create the custom lenses. Their involvement is also key for ensuring consumer trust in the safety of the product. (1)

As always with new technology, concerns over personal information and data storage come up. Mojo knows that consumer education will be key here. According to the company, the only data the lenses will store is facial recognition for people you may have to remember later. Even that, they say, will only be stored for a short amount of time. (1)

The Bottom Line

Though there are certainly a number of hurdles for Mojo to overcome before the lenses become a regular, house-hold product, the prospects of what it can do are exciting. While we wait for the first augmented reality contact lens prototypes to come out, we can dream about a not-so-distant sci-fi future where everyone has access to supervision.