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Invisible Computing, Mojo Vision and the Smart Contact Lens

The introduction of smartphones was a major disruptive technology shift that affected nearly every aspect of life. Rather than having our eyes glued to a PC monitor, we could now access the Internet through mobile apps. But the spirit of innovation tells us that isn’t enough, and now some companies are trying to reduce our dependence on screens altogether. How? Through smart contact lenses, through which companies like Mojo Vision hope to introduce us all to the concept of invisible computing.

The smart contact lens industry is becoming a hot new market. In fact, market analysts expect the smart contact lens market to exceed $10 billion worldwide by 2025. In recent years, many of the companies exploring smart contact lens are interested in these as medical devices. Specifically, smart contact lenses are being used to measure glucose levels in diabetics and ocular pressure in glaucoma patients. But for Mojo Vision, the “vision” is much more about invisible computing in the long run.

READ MORE: Social Implications of Disruptive Technologies

a photo quote of Mike Weimer concerning the disruptive technology of smart contact lens
Mojo Vision certainly has a grand ‘vision’ for their product.

A Little About Mojo Vision and Invisible Computing

Mojo Vision is a California-based startup that has been somewhat quiet about its pursuits until recently. With roughly $108 million in venture capital funding, Mojo Vision has been listed as an augmented reality (AR) company. But in the last few weeks, the startup offered some insights about its primary AR product being developed. Its smart contact lens product, Mojo Lens, hopes to allow users to access many applications without using their smartphone. By merely glancing left or right, or by focusing on specific images, users are given invisible freedoms with Mojo Vision’s lens.

READ MORE: The Fourth Industrial Revolution: Virtual and Augmented Reality Is Revolutionizing the Health Care Sector

Mojo Vision’s smart contact lens has over 14,000 pixels per inch. Likewise, the image itself displayed on the lens is about the size of the tip of a pen. To the user’s peripheral vision, the Mojo Lens displays things like appointments, notifications, music playback options and weather. And by focusing on arrows associated with these displays, the user would be able to see the expanded images and information. Yet, all of this is off from the central field of vision, and to most observers, accessing information is unnoticeable. That is what Mojo Vision calls invisible computing.

a photo quote of Drew Evans concerning the disruptive technology of smart contact lens
A lot must be considered with an ambitious aim like Mojo Vision’s.

The Smart Contact Lens Market — More Than Just Invisible Computing

While Mojo Vision looks to use smart contact lens to promote invisible computing, it is not their sole aim. In fact, their product completely meets safety measures and standards for all types of contact lenses. Mojo Vision has partnered with the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired to treat those with limited vision. For example, for those with visual limitations, the smart contact lens can enhance visual capacities. That includes enhancing contrasts, object edges and low magnified images. These efforts are a significant reason the FDA has approved Mojo Vision’s product to a fast-track development status.

Several other companies are similarly pursuing smart contact lens development for health endeavors. For example, Medella is a startup invested in diabetic and glucose monitoring through the use of smart contact lens. Likewise, Samsung has been approved for a patent for a similar product in South Korea. And Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea is also creating a smart contact lens for medical purposes. In addition to glucose monitoring and the detection of retinopathy, these devices can also measure ocular pressure. This detail has notable advantages in other health conditions like glaucoma.

READ MORE: Tech Companies Getting Into Healthcare — Giants Are Eyeing Positions!

a photo quote of Jean Louis concerning the disruptive technology of smart contact lens
The technology for smart contact lens is still growing and progressing.

A Rapidly Expanding Market

Mojo Vision is not alone in its quest to develop the first functional smart contact lens. Alphabet’s Verily has struggled with its own smart contact lens program for half a decade. DARPA has been researching this technology for the military for a decade. Sony has filed for a patent for a smart contact lens that has a video-recording capability. And several companies—like Magic Leap, NReal, Intel and Vuzix—have invested in similar AR programs in relation to eyewear. However, Mojo Vision is the first to show its smart contact lens, which is advancing to a complete product. At the moment, Mojo Vision looks to be leading the pack.

cartoon of people with Mojo Vision smart contact lens and accessing invisible computing while doing their daily activities
With Mojo Vision hoping to allow users to access applications without using smartphones, is the smart contact lens industry the new disruptive technology?

Still, Mojo Lens is not a product that will hit the market soon. The technology will likely take several more years to perfect. Likewise, its first applications will be related to those that assist the visually impaired rather than the common consumer. Currently, the device is powered by a small battery pack and computer that is located on a wrist band. Ultimately, Mojo Vision hopes to eliminate this portion of wearable technology and replace it with a smartphone app. Until these additional issues are resolved, and the FDA gives it an absolute green light, Mojo Vision will remain in its current development status. But given its progress, and its level of industry competition, smart contact lens technology appears right around the corner.

Organic Robots Are Here – Are We Ready for Them?

In case you haven’t noticed, robots are everywhere. Businesses now use robots to facilitate logistics, communications, and much, much more. At the same time, stem cell research is also expanding dramatically. New health and science solutions pursue a variety of stem cell treatments. But what happens when you mix the two? The development of a new category called… organic robots.

(Interested in how robotics will influence healthcare in the future? Find that story here.)

In essence, organic, biological materials make up organic robots and are automated entities. While the use of some biological materials enhances robotic features, the creation of organic robots is completely from biological substances. And some of the most recent discoveries in this area are suggesting these creations could represent important stem cell treatments. These therapies could involve the removal of waste substances to drug delivery systems within the human body. But with this comes new ethical questions that must be addressed.

organic robots, joshua bongard qouted
There’s nothing fictional about xenobots.

Organic Robots Made from Frogs?!

At the University of Vermont, researchers have recently been able to create organic robots from frog stem cells. The organic robots called xenobots are from cells of the frog species Xenopus Laevis. These immature cells capable of developing into a variety of different cell types are being used for a number of therapies. In addition to stem cell treatments involving organ replacements and cancer therapies, organic robots are also being pursued. In essence, the creation of entirely new “beings” came from the combination and collection of these cells.

These new frog organic robots are not likely what you think. For one, they are less than 1mm in size. The use of artificial intelligence through a supercomputer made it possible to make thousands of combinations of frog skin and heart cells. The combination that appeared to offer the best functionality was then selected. Stem cells were then assembled into tiny “flesh blobs” that were able to move on their own. And using artificial intelligence, these organic robots can be programmed as specific stem cell treatments for a number of situations.

stem cell treatments, michael levin qouted
Organic robots may be the solution to end to chronic illnesses.

New Opportunities for Stem Cell Treatments

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency funded the xenobots. The goal of the project was to create organic robots that were eco-friendly and safer for human health. In addition, however, these stem cell treatments were meant to provide new approaches to tough social health problems. (Read our exclusive story on Social Determinants of Health.) Specifically, these organic robots could clean up toxic waste or even remove plastics from the ocean. And based on their organic nature and origins, they eliminated many issues that traditional robotics face.

In addition to these opportunities for these stem cell treatments, new direct healthcare techniques also exist. For example, based on their size, these organic robots can travel within the human body and blood vessels. This means they may deliver drugs to specific sites in the body with fewer side effects. Likewise, they may also eliminate plaque from within arteries. And as living organisms, these organic robots could serve as research models for future stem cell treatments. The opportunities for these tiny flesh blobs appear to be tremendous.

organic robots, thomas douglas quoted
The ethical questions are just beginning to pile up.

A Rapidly Advancing Field with Ethical Issues

While the University of Vermont’s xenobot creations are amazing, they are far from the only new stem cell treatments. For example, Frequency Therapeutics is developing small molecule drugs that activate progenitor cells within the body to restore healthy tissues. ViaCyte is pursuing stem cell treatments that can mature into insulin-producing pancreatic cells. Magenta Therapeutics is investing in techniques to enhance transplant opportunities for patients using stem cell treatments. And the University of Washington is researching liquid organic robots that can develop into small organoids usable for transplant organs.

While these developments in science and technology are incredible, they come with some ethical concerns. It is possible to perceive organic robots as living organisms with their own set of rights. It is unlikely to view tiny xenobots with such limited capacities this way.  But as stem cell treatments advance, this could be a serious consideration. Currently, these organic robots cannot reproduce or show evolutionary advancement. But if this happens with future stem cell treatments, then these ethical questions become more relevant.

Are We Ready for Xenobots?

Organic robots exist today and we are certainly ready for the possible advantages that they offer.  Novel stem cell treatments through these types of developments offer great promise for advancing healthcare and social wellness. But as stem cell treatments progress, new issues will arise that need to be considered. Exploring these issues ahead of time would be wise given the speed in which these technologies are expanding. While clear black-and-white answers are unlikely, the dialogue surrounding these subjects helps prepare us for what’s to come. In any case, organic robots and other stem cell treatments are around the corner. And the repercussions are likely to be quite impressive.

Mojo Vision Smart Contact Lens Positively Disrupts Human Lives Cartoon

cartoon of people with Mojo Vision smart contact lens and accessing invisible computing while doing their daily activities
With Mojo Vision hoping to allow users to access applications without using smartphones, is the smart contact lens industry the new disruptive technology?