WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Up until now the contact lens hasn’t been put onto anyones eyeball, and for good reason, so this first human trial is a significant step forwards.
What comes after the smartphone? That’s just one of the questions I was asked by both Huawei and Samsung when we worked on developing the next generation of devices and gadgets, and while there are some very odd new formats coming through it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that among the answers were Smart Contact Lenses, and now these futuristic gadgets are getting closer to being in stores near you because of multiple technology advances. And, after years in development and multiple soft launches, last week Mojo Vision CEO Drew Perkins finally volunteered to test the first complete prototype.
Smart wearables are all about portability and convenience and until researchers can figure out how to beam content directly into your brain the smallest and most portable form factor we can imagine is that of a contact lens, but up until now these powerful little sci-fi gadgets haven’t actually been anywhere near people’s eyes because in previous tests the heat they emitted cooked cow’s eyeballs – which makes this real world test special. And, as a world leader in the field Mojo Vision’s latest product is impressive.
For starters, it has the world’s smallest and highest density display capable of showing dynamic content – a green monochrome MicroLED display measuring less than 0.5 mm (0.02 in) in diameter, with a resolution of 14,000 pixels per inch. It’s got an ARM Core M0 processor, a 5-GHz radio capable of communicating at ultra-low latency, and enough accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers to track your eye movements with extreme precision, allowing the image to stay stable even as you move your eyes around.
It’s got a medical grade micro-battery built into its outer ring – which will be big enough to run the thing all day long in the final product version – as well as power management circuits and a wireless charging system. And you won’t need hand controls or a smartphone to control it – Mojo Vision has designed a hands free user interface controlled by your own eye movements. Fancy!
And again, this is all kept so extraordinarily slim and compact that you can stick it on your eyeball and still stretch your eyelid over top of it without the use of a shoehorn. That’s what Perkins did last week at Mojo’s lab in Saratoga, California, becoming the first person ever to wear this “feature complete” AR smart contact lens.
See the trial as it happened
His comments on the experience were pretty succinct: “After completing preclinical testing and mitigating potential safety risks, I wore Mojo Lens,” Perkins said in a blog post. “Much to my delight, I found I could interact with a compass to find my bearings, view images, and use an on-screen teleprompter to read a surprising but familiar quote. I experienced first hand the future with Invisible Computing … Wearing the lens was inspiring. Seeing the future literally put me at a loss for words.”
So begins Mojo Vision’s testing process. The company will have a range of other people test the lens, providing feedback that’ll be rolled into a production-intent version that will be further developed and submitted to the FDA for market approval. In the meanwhile, the company is working with app developers to build up functionality for the device for when it launches.
“We hope to see Mojo Lens change the lives of individuals with vision impairment,” writes Perkins, “by improving their ability to perform daily tasks that many of us take for granted. I envision amateur and professional athletes wearing Mojo Lens so they can train smarter, stay focused, and reach peak performance. Ultimately, this is a tool that can give people an invisible assistant throughout their day to stay focused without losing access to the information they need to feel confident in any situation.”
The company is yet to say when it expects to have a product on shelves, but in an interview with IEEE Spectrum, Mojo’s Senior VP of Product and Marketing Steve Sinclair estimates the price will be something around that of a high-end smartphone. It sounds like it might be a bit fiddly to put on, too, since it’s designed to work at a specific orientation.
But this certainly seems next level especially given the fact that AR glasses themselves are still at a rudimentary level, and Mojo already seems fairly close with a product that could make other designs redundant pretty quickly if it does what it says on the tin, and maybe gets a colour display before too long.
Source: Mojo Vision