Published on May 13th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Mojo Vision is Working on Making AR Contact Lenses a Reality
The idea of an AR contact lens can be both exhilarating and unnerving. We last reported on a prototype back in January of 2020. There is an update on an AR contact lens from Mojo Vision included in this post from Luke Dormehl at Digital Trends. Imagine moving throughout your day with relevant information appearing in your field of vision yet without holding a device like a phone or tablet or wearing smart glasses. Depending on the frequency and placement of the content it could annoying or helpful. And is it appropriate that the people around you don’t realize you are accessing information perhaps even about them? These factors of the UX will need to be determined along with the huge challenges of developing the actual technology.
Photo: Mojo AR
Steve Sinclair, the senior vice president of product and marketing at a Silicon Valley startup called Mojo Vision, is excited about the technology his company is developing. And he’s betting you’ll be excited, too — so excited that you’ll forget all about the fact that using it requires you to press two tiny screens up against your eyeballs.
If what Mojo has planned works, sticking a piece of tech directly onto your eyes every day will be as minor a drawback as your smartphone making your pocket a few ounces heavier.
“When we’re pitching this to an investor, they know a little bit about what you’re going to show them because they wouldn’t take the meeting without having some of that info,” Sinclair told Digital Trends. “But when you hand them a lens, which we put on the end of a little stick [for the demo], and they bring it up and we light it so they can see contents in the lens close up to their eye, that’s when their jaws usually drop. People are just kind of blown away. It’s like, ‘I saw you say you could do it, the [presentation] slide says you can do it. But now I’m looking at it — and it works.’”
Mojo Vision, as you might have guessed, makes smart augmented reality contact lenses. Or, rather, it will make smart augmented reality contact lenses when it’s ready to ship a product. For now, it’s still developing the technology and raising money. Lots and lots of money. In early May, it announced that it had raised an extra $51 million to build its inaugural product, the Mojo Lens. This is on top of the (at least) $108 million it has already raised, bringing its total cash haul to nearly $160 million.
And if it can do what the company claims it can, that money will be venture dollars well spent.
From personal computers to AR contact lenses?
“Mojo Lens is a smart contact lens with a built-in display that gives you timely information without interrupting your focus,” Sinclair explains. “It’s all about elevating your vision by providing information exactly when you need it, all the while letting you look like yourself.”
This last part is one of the biggest reasons people are excited about Mojo Lens’ vision of augmented reality (AR), which seeks to expand our perception of the physical world by adding layers of digital information on top of it.
Augmented reality is, experts promise, the impending fourth platform of computing, an epoch waiting to happen. Paradigm shifts have occurred roughly every 15 years in computing: Personal computers in the early 1980s, the internet revolution of the mid-1990s, the mobile era starting in 2007. Such shifts shake up both what is technologically possible and which companies stand to benefit from it. The late Clayton Christensen’s much-cited Innovator’s Dilemma suggests that entrenched giants often miss out on disruptive innovation because they are so locked into what they are doing. They fail to see the wave breaking until they’re ready to be swept away.
In the case of AR, the tech incumbents are doing everything they can to not miss the swells of water threatening to erupt into a wave. Google Glass was an early attempt to capitalize on such augmented reality dreams. Apple, for its part, has ARKit and scores of patents for its own head-up display. Microsoft has HoloLens. Then there are Snapchat’s Spectacles, Magic Leap (which has received a big injection of Google money), and so on.
But despite this frenzied funding FOMO, no one has really yet nailed the perfect factor for AR. It’s impractical to walk through the world holding up a smartphone in front of our faces to see augmented layers of information. And while plenty of companies are building AR glasses, none has yet delivered a device so compelling that it signals the way to the future. In short, no one has yet built the iPhone of AR.
Technology that disappears
AR contact lenses could change that. They would be an example of what the late Mark Weiser, former chief technologist at the legendary tech research lab Xerox PARC, might have regarded as invisible computing. “The most profound technologies,” he wrote in a prescient article in 1991, “are those that disappear. They weave into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”