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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.