Seeing the future

Mojo Vision’s working prototypes prove
AR contact lenses could be more than science fiction.

By Mark Sullivan

wit-pijl

Other Visionaries
Google and Alcon
The two partnered to build
a glucose-measuring lens
for diabetics in 2014, but
shelved it in 2018 after
seeing inconsistent results.

DARPA
The agency has pursued
such ideas as lenses that
zoom in with a blink and
that work in tandem with
AR glasses. Samsung the
tech giant was granted a
patent for an AR lens last
July, but so far hasn’t
shown progress beyond

an idea.

Illustration by Wenkai Mao

Future of vision

While Magic Leap and Microsoft wrestle with bulky headsets, and tech giants such as Apple, Facebook, and Snap attempt augmented reality glasses, startup Mojo Vision has been aiming for an even more seamless medium: a contact lens. The company revealed the world’s first working prototype earlier this year, which can overlay users’ vision with basic graphics such as weather icons, arrows, and text.

Mojo isn’t the first company to dream of an AR lens, but even its own engineers doubted the feasibility of such a product—until they built it. Their breakthrough is a minuscule screen, slightly larger than a grain of sand, which directs 70,000 pixels to the eye’s retina. It’s an achievement more than a decade in the making, due largely to the work of Mojo’s chief science officer, Michael Deering, a former Sun Microsystems engineer who began working on microdisplays in the mid-aughts.

“He was able to unlock the tech that would need to exist for this to work,” says CEO Drew Perkins, who met and co-founded Mojo Vision with Deering in 2015. Mojo still has a ways to go: Internet connectivity, computing capabilities, and other components are currently housed off the lenses—issues that will need to be addressed before going to market. But the company’s leadership believes they’ve overcome the most difficult engineering hurdles.

They’ve raised nearly two billion Rands in funding from Google and Stanford, among others, and are currently in the FDA’s Breakthrough Devices Program, which offers a road map for development and eventual approval. Mojo hopes to deliver a product in two to three years, with capabilities such as text detection and magnification, aimed at people with low vision.

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