3 min read

AR Contact Lenses

What comes after the smartphone? It’s a question that will create the next multi-trillion-dollar competitor to Apple. And it seems like the unanimous answer is Augmented Reality. While most AR products and prototypes come in the form of glasses, one company called Mojo Vision has brought this technology to contact lenses.

Smart contact lenses, in their simplest definition, put a screen directly in your field of view. They remove the need to look down at your phone. How close are we to this reality and is it too cyborg-like for people to use?

AR Vision is Up Next

I remember when Google Glass came out in 2013. The tech community thought that we were about to replace our smartphones with Augmented Reality glasses. Here’s me rocking one of the first pairs:

Obviously, we were all wrong. Nearly a decade later and there’s still no consumer-ready AR glasses that can compete with our smartphones. But that’s not to say that Apple and others aren’t working their hardest to make it happen.

Then there’s Mojo Vision – a company with a different take on AR vision. Led by Drew Perkins and Steve Sinclair, Mojo is creating AR contact lenses.

The Mojo Lens is a prototype smart contact lens that supplements a user’s vision with a contextual Heads Up Display (HUD). In other words, it takes some of the same services and information our phone provides and puts it directly in our field of view via a contact lens. The HUD therefore removes the need to look down at a phone screen.

To date, they’ve raised over $200M and are currently testing their prototype on humans. To take everything we can do with our phones into a smart contact lens is a long ways away. Let’s make it clear that they’re not trying to put TikTok on a contact lens. Instead, Mojo has a few practical first uses in mind.

Mojo’s target use cases:

  1. Language translation – Look at different written language and it’ll translate it to your preferred language (just like Google Lens does).
  2. Exercise data and body metrics – Remove the need to check a smart watch or phone during training by putting mileage, timers, workout routines, etc. in our vision.
  3. Way-finding – You’ll be able to see your directions with arrows and upcoming turns (once again, like Google does with Live View).
  4. Risk detection – Identify potential dangers in our environment.

Among all these ideas, they seem to be focusing on the athletics market first. They’ve partnered with Adidas Running, Trailforks (cycling/hiking), Wearable X (yoga), Slopes (skiing), and 18Birdies (golf) to understand what type of heads-up information would help during these activities. It’s not hard to imagine how this could change training.

Honestly, I don’t even care about how well it works at the moment. What’s incredible is how much technology they’ve packed into something as small, lightweight, and delicate as a contact lens. The Mojo Lens includes medical grade battery, an ARM processor with a 5GHz radio transmitter, along with an accelerometer, gyroscope, a magnetometer to track eye movements, and screens with a pixel density 30x that of the iPhone. This is a technological feat in and of itself.

We’re probably still 6+ years away from a consumer-ready version. And even then, it’ll be quite limited in its capabilities and price point. Nonetheless, it’s fun to imagine what a future with smart contact lenses could be.

Upgrading Our Vision

When you picture a cyborg, one of the first things you’ll think of are its eyes. Cyborgs see the world differently than humans. They have enhanced vision that can identify threats instantly, zoom in on objects, summon information into their field of view, and a wide range of other tasks. Kind of like what is seen in this example.

Technology is the only means we have to speed up human evolution. And having the ability to merge digital information with our sight would be revolutionary.

Networking at conferences or meetups would change drastically, allowing us to see who each person is before meeting them. We could sort and parse through who we really need to meet, instead of wasting time in empty conversations.

Working remotely would take on an entirely new meaning since you’d be able to access your workstation everywhere without the need to lug around even a laptop. Nimo has made great strides in this field with their AR glasses.

One day, they might be able to put a camera in these lenses and change how we create point-of-view media. This would also give us the ability to visually zoom in on things in our surroundings and enhance what we see.

Like all technological progress, new tech-enabled behaviors are strange until they aren’t anymore. The same journalists who said the Internet is a fad are now only publishing stories online. The same adults who told their kids to put their flip phones away are now spending 8+ hours per day on their phones.

We use a lot of technology to augment our day already. I don’t see AR contact lenses being any different. It’s not like we’re asking people to replace their eyeballs with a new set of cyborg eyeballs. No, that’s still a lifetime or two away (maybe).