The human eye gives us high power vision with hundreds of millions of sensors in every retina. Now bionic vision may be possible with a new generation of contact lens built with microcircuits and LEDs.
Last week was the first test of an augmented reality (AR) contact lens. It was conducted in a research lab at Mojo Vision in Saratoga, California. The subject was their CEO Drew Perkins. This was a test of an AR contact lens worn directly on the eye of a human subject for the first time. (IRL, science fiction films have imagined them, eg The Batman.)
According to Mojo Vision, the prototype lens includes medical grade micro-batteries. It’s unclear what the battery life is for the current prototype, but according to the company, their product goal is power management that enables all-day wear.
Their display technology is impressive too. According to the company, the Mojo Lens has a 14,000 pixel-per-inch MicroLED display with a pixel pitch (distance between pixels) of 1.8 microns. For context, an iPhone 13 with a Super Retina XDR Display has 460 pixel per inch resolution.
In addition, these lenses include an ARM processor with a 5GHz radio transmitter, along with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer to track eye movements. A built-in camera is in the works. And all of this sits directly on the human eye.
In a blog, Perkins said: “The final technical hurdle to wearing the lens was ensuring that the power and radio communications systems worked without wires. Cutting the cord proved that the lens and all major components are fully functional.”
The contact was engineered to allow the wearer natural central vision. The battery and chips are around the edge. The lens also has channels built into it and a special material that allows oxygen to reach the eye. The human eye needs a high level of oxygen at all times.
Augmented reality may have more impact on day to day life than virtual reality (VR). VR is the foundation of the metaverse, and has a lot of major companies investing long-term. But these are make-believe worlds, for fun. A wearable device that brings cgi overlays to the real world could be used 24/7.
There are AR glasses manufacturers that have decided to focus on the enterprise market. For operating complex equipment. This new lens is for consumers.
What are the physical and mental health issues of constant AR? No one knows, but it’s likely that the delicate eye can be injured and our judgement impaired by constant use. The lens is being marketed as a replacement for smartphones, smartwatches, etc.
Constant distraction? Almost certainly. Inevitable? This sort of thing has been the stuff of science fiction for decades, and it’s almost here. One thing is certain: whatever humans can imagine, we can do—but tend to wait to sort out the consequences until afterwards.
The Mojo Vision lens will first need to be approved by the FDA. Hopefully they will be thorough in long-term testing. It may be a huge help to people with limited vision, as well as expanding our view when we’re jogging.
David Raiklen wrote, directed and scored his first film at age 9. He began studying keyboard and composing at age 5. He attended, then taught at UCLA, USC and CalArts. Among his teachers are John Williams and Mel Powel.
He has worked for Fox, Disney and Sprint. David has received numerous awards for his work, including the 2004 American Music Center Award. Dr. Raiklen has composed music and sound design for theater (Death and the Maiden), dance (Russian Ballet), television (Sing Me a Story), cell phone (Spacey Movie), museums (Museum of Tolerance), concert (Violin Sonata ), and film (Appalachian Trail).
His compositions have been performed at the Hollywood Bowl and the first Disney Hall. David Raiken is also host of a successful radio program, Classical Fan Club.