Mojo Vision unveils latest augmented reality contact lens prototype | VentureBeat
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The Mojo Lens prototype is a critical milestone for the company in its development, testing, and validation process, and is an innovation positioned at the intersection of smartphones, augmented reality/virtual reality, smart wearables, and health tech.
The prototype includes numerous new hardware features and technologies embedded directly into the lens — advancing its display, communications, eye tracking, and power system.
Over the past two years, Saratoga, California-based Mojo Vision has also been investing in various software experiences for Mojo Lens. In this new prototype, the company has built foundational operating system code and user experience (UX) components for the first time. The new software will allow for further development and testing of important use cases for consumers and partners.
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The initial target market is for people with low vision, as it will be a medically approved device that can help partially blind people see things better like road signs.
“We don’t refer to this as a product,” said Steve Sinclair, senior vice president of product and marketing, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We refer to it as a prototype. The next year or so for us is going to be taking what we learned from this because we now understand how to build a smart contact lens with all the elements. It’s now optimization. It’s software development. It’s experience development. It’s safety testing. It’s really understanding how it works as a low-vision product for that first customer that we’re interested in.”
This new Mojo Lens prototype will further accelerate the development of invisible computing (a term coined by technologist Don Norman way back when), a next-generation computing experience where information is available and presented only when needed. This eyes-up experience allows users to access timely information quickly and discreetly without forcing them to look down at a screen or lose focus on the people and the world around them.
Mojo has identified initial consumer uses of invisible computing for performance athletes, and recently announced strategic partnerships with leading sports and fitness brands, such as Adidas Running, to collaborate on eyes-up, hands-free experiences.
Mojo has been working with its new partners to find unique ways to improve athletes’ access to in-the-moment or during data. Mojo Lens can give athletes a competitive edge, allowing them to stay focused on their workout or training and maximize their performance, without the distraction of traditional wearables.
“Mojo has created advanced foundational technologies and systems that weren’t possible before now. Innovating the new features in the lens is a tremendous amount of work, but successfully bringing them all together into an integrated system in such a small form factor is a considerable achievement in cross-disciplined product development,” said Mike Wiemer, cofounder and chief technology officer of Mojo Vision, in a statement. “We are excited to share our progress and can’t wait to start testing Mojo Lens in real-world scenarios.”
“A lot of this last year has been trying to get everything in here to work and get it into a form factor that electrically works,” Sinclar said. “But also, from a wearability standpoint, we’ve done all the things we can do so that a few of us can start wearing it safely.”
The company has hired a number of people to build out the software team. And that team has been building prototype applications.
A close-up look
I previously saw Mojo’s prototype and demo in 2019. But back then, I didn’t see much flesh on the bones. It still uses a green monochrome color for all of its imagery, but many more components are built out on the sides of the glass that enable things like internet connectivity, said Sinclair.
It will be based on a special rigid gas permeable plastic contact lens, as normal plastic isn’t suitable for the various pieces of computer hardware that are going to be embedded in the device. So it is hard and doesn’t bend. It features sensors like motion-sensing accelerometers, gyroscopes, and a magnetometer, as well as a custom-built radio for communication.
“We’ve taken all the system elements that we believe can go into the first product. And we’ve got them integrated into into a complete system embedded into the contact lens form factor and electrically working and ready to start testing,” said Sinclair. “We refer to this as our feature-complete lens.”
It has a power-management chip, a tiny image sensor, and a small microprocessor.
He said, “What we showed you in that in that lens in 2019 had some basic image capabilities built into it and display capabilities built into it, some basic compute capabilities, and antenna. One of the big changes that we made from that lens to this lens is we went from wireless power, so magnetic inductive coupling power, to an actual battery onboard battery system. So we found that the magnetic coupling just didn’t provide a consistent power source.”
Eventually, the final product will have some way to obscure the electronics and make it look more like a part of your eye. The eye-tracking sensors are more precise because they reside on the eye, Sinclair said.
In the application demo, I had to peer through some faux lenses that showed me what you would see if you were looking through the lenses. I saw a green user interface overlaid on the real world. The green color is power efficient, but the team is also working on a full-color display for its second-generation product. The monochrome lens can display 14,000 pixels per inch, but the color display would be denser than that.
I could stare at one part of the image and essentially double click on something, activating a part of the app that took me into the application.
It had a reticle so I knew where to aim. I could hover over an icon and peer at the corner of it and activate the software program. Among the apps: I could look at the route for my bicycle ride, or I could read text on a teleprompter. It wasn’t so hard to read the text. I could also use a compass to know which direction was which.
“These are just examples of things we can build,” Sinclair said.
A detailed summary of the features was released today in a blog post from the company. For software, the company will eventually create a software development kit (SDK) that others could use to create their own applications.
“This latest prototype of Mojo Lens demonstrates major advances in the development of our platform and the goals for our company,” said Drew Perkins, CEO of Mojo Vision, in a statement. “Six years ago, we had a vision for this experience and faced an immense number of design and technology challenges. But we had the expertise and confidence to take them on and have made consistent, breakthrough progress over the years.”
Since 2019, Mojo Vision has been working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through its Breakthrough Devices Program, a voluntary program designed to provide safe and timely access to medical devices that can help treat irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions.
Mojo Vision has raised more than $205M in funding to date from investors including NEA, Advantech Capital, Liberty Global Ventures, Gradient Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Shanda Group, Struck Capital, HiJoJo Partners, Dolby Family Ventures, HP Tech Ventures, Fusion Fund, Motorola Solutions, Edge Investments, Open Field Capital, Intellectus Ventures, Amazon Alexa Fund, PTC, and others.
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