A closer look at smart contact lenses and their technology
The idea of making smart wearables is nothing new. Apart from smart watches and bracelets – which have already become established products – other examples of smart wearables are also being developed, including smart tattoos, smart body tags, smart clothing and eventually smart glasses. Therefore, it is not surprising that smart contact lenses can also enter the daily life of people. The story becomes interesting when you know how many companies are currently working on this type of lens and have exhibited their products at international events. Among the most important of these companies, we can mention Mojo Vision and InWith. Although Google, Samsung and Sony are not sitting idle and taking steps – although small – have been removed.
In the following, we intend to introduce you to the latest achievements of the above companies in the field of developing smart lenses.
About two Last year, at the CES 2020 event, we saw the unveiling of a prototype of a smart lens by Mojo Vision. After two years, Mojo Vision announced at CES 2022 its collaboration with Adidas to produce the first smart lens. This product – which is currently in the prototype stage – is called Mojo Lens and has a micro-LED display the size of a grain of sand.
Mojo Lens technology is a kind of AR or augmented reality, but not the augmented reality you’ve seen before. The green monochrome display inside this lens can display text, simple graphics, and even some images (including maps or information about objects) in front of the user’s eyes, but this lens is designed to function like a smart watch. have The accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer of this lens provide eye tracking.
Eye tracking in augmented reality or virtual reality glasses is done by cameras that sense eye movement. But the ability of Mojo Lens to track the eyes is due to the fact that this lens actually sits on the user’s eye. In this way, according to Mojo Vision officials, thanks to direct contact with the eyeball, the sensors in this lens can calculate eye movements more accurately than AR or VR glasses (just like the performance of smart watches, which can measure different quantities in contact with the skin of the body). such as heart rate, measure stress, etc.).
In addition to the aforementioned sensors, Mojo Lens includes other components including a battery, a motion tracking sensor, and a short-range wireless connection. Of course, you should note that this lens is not a completely independent device, and to be able to do its work properly, it must be connected wirelessly with another device – which is hung around the user’s neck. Mojo Vision calls this neck-mounted device a relay or “reinforcement station” because it acts as a computer with the lens.
Currently, these lenses cannot be directly connected to smartphones because they require a lower power connection. Steve Sinclair, senior vice president of products at Mojo Vision, does not consider Bluetooth LE suitable for this task due to its high consumption. Currently, the wireless connection on the Mojo Lens is in the GHz band, but Sinclair says more work needs to be done to make sure the connection doesn’t interfere.
Apparently, the smartphone does not have the required frequency to connect to this lens. According to Sinclair, due to the limitation of the transmission power of the lens, it is necessary to establish a connection between the lens and the computer part, that this part should be placed somewhere close to the human head. In this way, this technology can be embedded in a hat or even glasses, but according to Sinclair, the best option for now is the neck-mounted device.
Radio connection, display, triple motion sensors, battery pack and power management system are among the components of Mojo Lens, but the power lens system is not yet ready to work in the eye and currently this lens has to be It has a small connecting armband that the user has to carry to supply the required energy to the lens. It should be noted that in the current prototype, a wireless chip is used to transfer data to the lens (in order to be displayed on the screen).
A small chip called Arm Cortex M0 is installed inside Mojo Lens, which is responsible for transferring encrypted data to the lens and also managing energy. The neck computer is also responsible for running applications, interpreting eye-tracking data, and updating image placement in 10 millisecond cycles.
Drew Perkins, the CEO of Mojo Vision, will be the first person to try these smart lenses on his eyes, and after the CEO, it will be the turn of other executives of the company. The sports partners of Mojo Vision also announced that they will soon conduct some tests to check the performance of these lenses during various sports.
Another thing Mojo Vision is working on is the medical use of these lenses to help the visually impaired. , which of course requires more time. For this purpose, a high-resolution secondary camera is required, which must be embedded in a pair of glasses or hung from the user’s ear. In this way, when a person looks at a landscape, the mentioned camera records an image of the same landscape with high resolution, this image appears in the lens, and the user can see it in a better way by zooming in if needed.
All these capabilities will be implemented when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes this product as a contact lens and confirms its health. Mojo Vision is currently in the process of obtaining this approval from the FDA. Of course, this requires that Mojo Lens be produced as a medical product in various versions. Also, in order for these lenses to have a more normal appearance, the hardware part inside them should be covered with an artificial iris.
Another company active in the field of producing smart contact lenses is InWith. At the CES 2022 event, InWith went a step further and announced that it has succeeded in producing the first soft smart lens. Apparently, InWith has designed these lenses with his vision of the metaverse phenomenon and the role of wearable technology in it.
Perhaps, looking at the InWith contact lens ads, you may think that the company exaggerated the description of its product and think that this lens is not real. . But InWith’s presence at the CES event and sharing the claims with users shows that the company is on the right track. One of the most interesting features of InWith flexible lenses is that they don’t need a battery to provide the energy they need, and they get this energy from the user’s blink. Also, these lenses are equipped with an automatic focusing mechanism, and people with low vision will not need glasses or other contact lenses by using this product.
Another point is the design of these lenses with an augmented reality scenario. For example, imagine you are driving on a road. According to Michael Hayes, CEO of InWith, if you wear the company’s smart lenses in this mode, you can see useful information related to the road in front of you, including the maximum speed limit on that road. Is? Which way am I moving? Where is the next exit and how many kilometers ahead?
Google, Samsung and Sony
According to a recent report by the reliable website Global Market Vision Published In the next few years, Google companies, Samsung and Sony are the most important players The field of contact lenses will be smart. Google has been working in this field for several years. In 2014, Google announced its plan to produce smart contact lenses for diabetic patients. According to Google, this lens could help patients with diabetes by tracking blood glucose levels.
Later, the scientific community proved that there is no correlation between glucose in the retina and blood glucose. For this reason, the production project of this lens was also stopped. However, despite the incompleteness of this project, the general framework and basis of this project still remain in place. Samsung has also registered several patents in this field, including a patent related to smart contact lenses with a built-in camera. It is true that there is a long distance between the registration of a patent and the production of the final product from it, but surely this Korean company does not like to lag behind its competitors in this new industry.
When will smart contact lenses enter the market?
It is a little difficult to estimate the exact time when these products will enter the market, but it will certainly be less than 20 years! According to market analysts, the competition between technology giants to make smart contact lenses has started a long time ago. In the meantime, the only thing that has stopped progress in this field is technology itself; The technology by which batteries can be produced in a very small size to fit inside the lenses; Technology that can safely and securely place this type of battery near the eyes; The technology required to develop low-power displays inside the lenses; And finally, the technology that makes it possible to make small chips that can be easily embedded in the lenses.