More than 150M people choose to wear contact lenses in the world right now, and we have all seen some ways of augmented or virtual reality based on glasses or projectors. So what about having a tiny computer and projector embedded in your contact lenses? This may sound too far away from now, but a company called Mojo already started this project(Augmented Reality Lenses) in 2017, and they may have their first product ready before 2030.
What can an AR contact lens do?
AR lenses don’t have a shortage of applications envisioned now. They can apply to many AR situations that are currently being developed, sports or location data overlays, names of people you are speaking with, and real-time translation of signs or other text. But what is unique about AR contact lenses is that they can help visually impaired people to improve their vision: identifying and highlighting edges or shapes of objects, night vision can also be improved(David Cardinal, 2020).
Like a computer or phone screen, the AR Contact lens has a display. However, it contains 14000 pixels per inch which is way denser than a standard computer display. They are able to display a clear profile photo in a 0.45mm length square which has a size of 5% of a ladybug. The display is placed right in front of the pupil because the light from the display must pass through the pupil, the display must be invisible, must not create a blind spot, and the display must have no impact on visual acuity. Another essential feature of this project is the eye-tracking system. If the projection is stationary on the contact lens, it will move with our eyes. When we want to focus on something on the virtual display(if it is not centred at our eye), our eye will try to rotate to centre the object. Since the contact lens also moves with our eyes, we will never be able to see the display at the centre of our sight. But with eye-tracking, the sensor in the contact lens can monitor how the eye moves, thus adjusting the display(Wiemer, 2021).
The history of Mojo Lens started with a wirelessly powered single LED that was built into a lens, and then it was able to project a static image in later 2017. It could use microLED to display dynamic content from wireless data in 2018. The lens was optimized to provide a custom fit and oxygenation, which were essential for a contact lens. In 2021, the main features were completed: Hi-res micro-LED display, Fast wireless data, Computer vision, Battery power, and Eye-tracking. Although there is still plenty of work to do on user experience and system integration, getting FDA approval (needed for all medical devices) will be a critical step to bringing the Mojo lens to the market(David Cardinal, 2020).
In conclusion, the AR/VR world is approaching much quicker than we have imagined, the market for AR and VR lenses is predicted to be expanding with a CAGR of 70% from 2019 to 2027, along with new opportunities and challenges. North America will lead the AR lens market. However, Asia Pacific is set to register the highest growth in the market because of the growing technical user base in developing countries (Credence Research, 2019).
Wiemer, & Winoto, R. (2021). Mojo Lens – AR Contact Lenses for Real People. 2021 IEEE Hot Chips 33 Symposium (HCS), 1–56. https://doi.org/10.1109/HCS52781.2021.9567321
Augmented and virtual reality contact lens market by Lens (AR contact lens, VR contact lens), by application (gaming, medical) – growth, future prospects and competitive analysis 2019 – 2027. Market Research Reports. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.credenceresearch.com/report/augmented-and-virtual-reality-contact-lens-market
David Cardinal, 2020 at 7:30 am C. (2020, June 2). These smart contact lenses overlay info without obscuring your view. ExtremeTech. Retrieved May 8, 2022, from https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/311066-mojo-vision-smart-contact-lenses