There aren't many meetings in Las Vegas during CES that still blow me away. The few I can think of are mainly Oculus. I had no idea what company I was going to show a company that I had never seen before, called Mojo Vision. I knew they made very, very small screens. I knew the company was looking for some type of AR contact lens. They were not even officially part of CES. You can see why he was intrigued.
In a suite at the Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas, I approached a table where there was a single contact lens in a case. This lens had some embedded circuits, and in the center, there was a small point. I held the lens in my hand. This was. Without a doubt, the smallest piece of technology that I have demonstrated.
I couldn't really stick this lens in my eye. Mojo wouldn't allow it, yet. Instead, I raised a transparent plastic wand with the lens mounted. I held it very, very close to my eye, while looking at a projected screen in front of me. And through a bright green dot the size of a pin, I saw text, which is shown in a demo loop. Time. A sports score. The weather. Health data, such as heart rate. A message, as sent by a friend. It was like the smallest pair of smart lenses in the world, right in my eye. An intelligent contact lens. This is what Mojo Vision is looking for, and it feels … well, it feels like technology that came from the year 2020.
"We didn't want to exaggerate and show something that was just vaporware," says Steve Sinclair, vice president of products and marketing for Mojo Vision. Sinclair has an experience that includes the original launch of the iPhone at Apple, and the vice president of product marketing for Motorola Mobility during the launch of the Moto 360, Moto Hint and Moto X headphones under Rick Osterloh (now Google's hardware chief).
The Mojo Vision team has a history of technology and healthcare companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Philips Healthcare, Zeiss Opthalmology and Johnson & Johnson. "We have been working hard to create the world's first true intelligent contact lens, and we truly mean that it really incorporates all the capabilities of a solution that you can use all day and projects augmented reality information to the user when you need it." said Sinclair.
What's going on here? Mojo Vision, a company founded in 2017, has been stealthy for years, promising a seemingly impossible. After showing off the , this is the first time that the company's smart lenses are revealed. Mojo Vision is still years away from its goal of a viable version of its lenses, approved by the FDA and ready for the consumer. What I am seeing is the first demonstration prototype of the Mojo lens, a preview of the first of several steps that the company wants to do before they are ready.
These contact lenses will not only show text; they will detect objects, they will track the movement of the eyes, they will have an interface controlled by the eyes that will access data such as a smart watch or smart glasses, and … they will see in the dark. Not only are they meant to give ordinary people James Bond powers in their eyes; They really seek to help people whose visual impairment may need help, such as those with macular degeneration.
"We've focused a lot on this concept we call invisible computing," says Sinclair about Mojo Vision. "What is the idea that I get information when I need it, and technology fades when I don't need it."
The extremely high density monochromatic MicroLED display inside the Mojo Vision lens feels incredibly small. When I look at the text, I can see the pixels, but it works to get basic information. Mojo's planning for a multicolored screen below, and with two lenses, the images could be stereoscopic. My experience with a single lens is more like an incredibly small version of smart single-eye glasses. It's like Google Glass, but in my opinion. CNET looked at Mojo Visionlast year; You can see that story up close, but in my demo I was not allowed to look at the technology under a microscope.
There is nothing That pretty much describes what it is like to see the screen through my eye. Because it is so close and so small, reading texts works even without glasses and with my terrible nearsighted vision. The screen appears in my student's field of vision, floating. The closest thing to what I've seen was the North Focals smart glasses, which projected a screen that only appeared when I looked forward. The Mojo Vision lens screen, however, could follow my eye everywhere, as it would be in my cornea.
"The Mojo lens can help people who have low vision problems, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, which is a type of tunnel vision, night blindness," Sinclair said. "We have built a lens that can help them, but it can also give those of us who don't have those conditions, somehow, super powers to be able to see things that they couldn't otherwise see."
This is when they tell me that I will enter a room to see in the dark.
My next demonstration takes place in the adjoining room of the hotel suite, which is covered with street signs placed on the bed and chairs. They gave me another prototype lens, using technology that is not yet in the independent smart lens, but it will be sometime later this year.
This initial version is still mounted on a processing unit the size of a phone, which I hold while I look through the lens mounted on a small wand. Now the lights are off, making everything completely dark … and I can see, engraved in green, the street signs and the face of the person who gives me the demonstration. I am looking in the dark with a magic contact lens on a stick.
A road of years ahead
Mojo's team shows me a long box with previous versions of the lens prototype that goes back to the foundation of the company in 2017, and future models of where the contact lens design is headed. While the lens I put on my fingertips is now almost completely transparent, considerably more technology is added in the next designs. The areas around the pupil are filled with components (battery, processor elements), where a fake colored iris will mask some of the future hardware: edge detection, a small image sensor and also motion tracking. It feels like looking at parts of a future cyborg.
At this time, the smart lens is mainly showing the company's miraculously small screen, but with the other demonstrations I can get an idea of where computer vision and motion tracking might be going.
Mojo Vision does not have a lens to show how the information can be extracted from the air in its future interface, but I try a virtual reality demonstration in an eye tracking HTC Live Pro that shows how a bright green ring looks around the periphery of my vision when I look at the edges, notifications appear in one area and the weather in another. It is like a smart watch eye tracking interface.
The Mojo Vision team has already been using this prototype of an early intelligent contact lens in the eyes, Sinclair tells me, which already allows adequate oxygenation and can be used as a microdisplay. (I am not allowed to do this in the demonstration of my hotel suite). But Mojo Vision plans to have its first visual demonstration ready later this year, adding additional features for motion tracking and image detection. The ignition of the Mojo Lens prototype is delivered wirelessly over the air at this time; eventually, a small battery will live on the lens itself, along with a 5 GHz radio that will transmit data.
I can't imagine putting something like this in my eye: it's not an implant, but it's much more intimate than any other portable technology I've tried. Will it be safe? I'll be fine?
Mojo Vision is completely oriented towards FDA approval and is becoming a medically approved optical device. It has already received an innovative device designation from the FDA, aimed at companies that work on assistive devices for debilitating or life-threatening conditions, which will help accelerate approval. Mojo intends that his intelligent contacts help people with visual disabilities such as macular degeneration, and is already partnering with the Palo Alto Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
According to Mojo Vision, the future ability of the Mojo lens to enlarge the text, highlight the edges of the objects, adjust the contrast or even provide other assistance (provide subtitles, for example, or translation) will be what makes these lenses true assistive devices for vision. .
Mojo also plans to make these lenses in recipes; The company has internal optometrists, and Sinclair admits that this entire project requires that the lenses be approved by the FDA, like any contact lens in the United States. Mojo Vision's vice president of medical devices, Dr. Kuang-mon (Ashley) Tuan, who has developed contact lens technology for two decades with other companies, tells me to take the product through R&D to a safe product It is your main goal. "I have sent three different types of contact lenses. We have three internal optometrists, two of us are veterans of the contact lens industry," Tuan tells me. "We have to make sure this is safe," Sinclair emphasizes.
My grandfather had macular degeneration and had to use a clumsy computer and a massive magnification screen to read things in the 90s, before the iPhone. The idea of a technology like this would have surprised him. It stuns me
I don't know what the long-term viability of Mojo Vision smart lenses is. I only had a demonstration in a hotel suite in Las Vegas. But I needed the last week to process all this, because the possibilities feel wilder than anything I've experienced before. I wouldn't even call these lenses augmented reality. They feel, instead, like something bionic.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as medical or health advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.