The Mojo Vision AR contact lenses are very cool, but there are still many unanswered questions

CES 2020 reporting - TechCrunch

Companies keep trying Let glass holes arise. Understandably. After the smartphone and the wrist, the face is the next local battlefield for the computer room when decades of science fiction films have taught us something. But we saw Google Glass, Snapchat Spectacles, The Magic Leap, and everything Samsung just announced.

Contact lenses have also been mentioned in the same conversation for some time, but due to technical restrictions, the bar is much higher than with normal heads-up glasses. Mojo Vision from California has been working on the breakthrough for a number of years and has a substantial amount, including $ 108 million, including $ 58 million for the Series B that closed in March.

The technology is definitely convincing. I met the team in a hotel suite at CES last week and got an overview of some of the things they were working on. While executives say they've been feeding the technology to dog food for some time, the demos were still quite far from a possible augmented reality contact lens.

Rather, two separate demos were essentially holding a lens or device close to my eye to get a feel for what a final product would look like. The reason was twofold. First, most of the work is done outside of the device, while Mojo is working on perfecting a system that can exist within the limits of a contact and only needs to be charged once in a 25-hour cycle. Second, the question of how to try on a couple of contacts during a short CES meeting.

I will say that I was impressed with the heads-up display capabilities. In the simplest demo, monochrome text that resembles a digital clock is overlaid on images. Miles per hour are shown here via videos from current users. The illusion has a certain depth, with the numbers looking as if they were a foot or so.

In another demo, I created an HTC Vive. Here I am shown a live video of the space around me (XR, if you like) with notifications. The system tracks eye movements so you can focus on one tab to expand it for more information. It's a far more graphical interface than the other example with full calendars, weather forecasts, and the like. You can easily imagine how adding a wider range of colors can result in fairly complex AR images.

Mojo uses CES to announce its intention to start life as a medical device. In fact, the FDA has given the startup an award for breakthrough devices, which means that the technology has a special audit priority from the government agency. This goes hand in hand with a partnership with the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in the Bay Area.

This should give a good impression of Mojo's go-to-market plans. Before selling it as an AR for every device, the company takes care of visual impairments. It should occupy a space similar to many of the "audible" companies that have applied for medical device status to offer hearing-enhancing Bluetooth earphones. Working with the FDA should help technology get to opticians' offices faster.

The idea is to have them prescribed similarly to contact lenses, while additional features like night vision help people with visual impairments and may make people with better vision essentially bionic. You go to the doctor, get a prescription, the contact lenses are sent to you and should be about the length of a normal couple. Of course they are more expensive and there are still questions about how much insurance companies will shell out.

In the final state, the devices should work for a whole day and be charged in a cleaning case in a way that does not deviate from AirPods (although unfortunately they do not also clean the product). There is a small radio on board the lenses for communication with a device that hangs around the neck and forwards information to and from a smartphone. I asked if it was planned to finally remove the neck device from the market, and the company replied that no, it was planned to remove the smartphone from the market. Fair play.

I also asked if the company was working with a neurologist in addition to its existing medical staff. After 10 years of the ubiquity of smartphones, we only seem to be getting clear data on how these devices affect things like sleep and mental well-being. I have to imagine that this is only reinforced by the feeling that these notifications shine more or less directly into your brain.

Did I mention that you can still see the display when you close your eyes? Talk about a (pardon my french) thought fuck. There will certainly be ways to silence or disable these things, but as someone who regularly falls asleep with their smartphone in hand, I admit that I am quite weak in terms of digital addiction. It feels like I'm injecting the stuff straight into my veins and I'm there for it until I am no longer.

We still have time. Mojo is still working on the end product. And then you need a doctor’s license. I hope that's enough time to answer some of these burning questions more specifically, but given how screen time has evolved, I have some doubts about it.

Stay up to date. We will follow this closely.

CES 2020 reporting - TechCrunch