The prototype of a smart contact lens puts a micro-LED display on the eye

Woman putting in a contact lens
Enlarge / Smart contact lenses don’t work that easily yet.

Since 2015, a California-based company called Mojo Vision has been developing smart contact lenses. As with smart glasses, the idea is to put helpful AR graphics in front of your eyes to complete daily tasks. Now a working prototype brings us closer to a final product.

In a blog post this week, Drew Perkins, the CEO of Mojo Vision, said he was the first to receive an “on-eye demonstration of a full-function, intelligent augmented reality contact lens.” In an interview with CNET, he said he only wears one contact at a time for hours. Finally, Mojo Vision wants users to be able to wear two Mojo lenses at once and create 3D visual overlays, the release says.

According to his blog, the contact allowed the CEO to see a compass and teleprompter on the screen with a quote written on it. He also recalled seeing a green, monochromatic image of Albert Einstein on CNET.

Drew Perkins, CEO of Mojo Vision, wears the Mojo lens in his right eye.
Enlarge / Drew Perkins, CEO of Mojo Vision, wears the Mojo lens in his right eye.

At the heart of the lens is a micro-LED display with 14,000 pixels per inch. It is just 0.02 inches (0.5mm) in diameter and has a pixel pitch of 1.8 microns. Perkins claimed it was the “smallest, densest display ever designed for dynamic content”.

The development of the contact as a whole included a focus on the miniaturization of physics and electronics, Perkins wrote. Mojo Lens developed its power management system using “medical grade micro batteries” and a proprietary power management integrated circuit.

The Mojo lens also uses a custom-configured magnetometer (CNET noted that this powers the Compass Perkins saw), accelerometer, and gyroscope for tracking. The goal is for AR to remain visible even when you move your eyes, Perkins wrote. Eye movement is essential as there is no gesture or voice control like some smart glasses like Ray-Ban Stories. The entire user interface is based on eye tracking.

One of the biggest obstacles to smart glasses is how awkward and weird they can look. Some devices, like Stories and Nreal Air, use a sunglass-like appearance to combat this.

A contact lens seems to have the potential to be even more discreet than an AR headgear masquerading as regular Ray-Ban. But as noted by CNET, the current prototype uses an Arm M0 processor that you have to wear around your neck. It wirelessly sends information to the lens “and back to computers that track the eye-movement data for research purposes,” the publication says. Perkins’ blog said that this technology requires custom ASIC designs that use a 5GHz radio and the processor that “transmits sensor data from the lens and streams AR content to the Micro-LED.”

An exploded view of the Mojo lens.
Enlarge / An exploded view of the Mojo lens.

In its current form, that sounds like a major disadvantage for consumers. Being forced to wear anything around your neck can be annoying, even if it’s a small chip. And it’s unclear how warm the device gets.

The current prototype also uses a hat with an integrated antenna for easier connection, CNET reported; However, we would expect this to be left out of a final product.

There is no firm release date for the Mojo lens, which could be the first AR contact lens to reach consumers. Short-term goals include getting potential partners, investors and journalists to try the smart lens.

The contact needs a lot of testing and approvals before it sees the eyes of consumers.
Enlarge / The contact needs a lot of testing and approvals before it sees the eyes of consumers.

“With this advancement, we now have a testing platform to help us refine and build Mojo Lens, which will ultimately lead to submission to the FDA for market approval,” Perkins wrote. “To achieve this, we will conduct multiple clinical trials to test capabilities and provide feedback on software and apps.”

Perkins’ blog suggested that within 10 years people could be walking around with smart contacts. He painted a world where athletes wear smart contact lenses for focused, more intense training. He also described using Smart Contacts to display helpful information such as: B. when an Uber comes to pick you up from the airport, or information about physical and mental health.