In small green lines across my vision, a succession of pop-up directional indicators appear. I can tell which direction north is when I turn. These are compass marks projected on a small MicroLED display perched on a contact lens and held in front of my eye with a stick. After years of experimenting with smart glasses, returning to seeing objects via a curved lens the size of a fingernail seemed as surreal as ever. However, I’m still unsure about wearing it in my eyes.
The Mojo Lens, a self-contained display-enabled lens that I tried before the pandemic at CES 2020 in an earlier incarnation, is back in a form that the firm claims are now suitable for internal testing.
As the firm prepared for its next round of internal development, I tried Mojo Vision’s latest prototype lens at an office building in midtown Manhattan a few weeks ago. While Mojo’s contact lenses aren’t yet certified for daily use, they are another step forward and reflect the company’s finalised tech package for version 1.0.
In some ways, Mojo Vision’s technology is augmented reality. However, not in the way, you might imagine. The monochromatic green display on the hard lens can show text, rudimentary graphics, and even some drawings, but it’s more of a wristwatch. The accelerometer, gyro, and magnetometer in the lens also allow it to do something I’ve never seen before: eye tracking.
Seeing the world through your eyes
Unlike eye tracking technology in VR and AR glasses, which employs cameras to detect eye movement, these lenses literally rest on your eye and track it. According to Mojo Vision executives, the sensors, like those on a smartwatch, can compute movement more precisely than VR or AR glasses. Because the lenses haven’t been certified for use yet, I didn’t really put them in my eyes. I moved my head around while holding the lens close to my eye to witness the tracking effect.
Back in 2020, I tried a version of Mojo’s lens that didn’t have any batteries or inbuilt motion-tracking technology. A battery array, motion tracking, and short-range wifi are all included in the updated edition.
The lens, however, isn’t a stand-alone gadget; a proprietary wireless link connects it to a second neck-worn device, dubbed a relay by Mojo, which will serve as the lenses’ companion computer. Only the lenses were shown to me as part of the Mojo Vision gear.
For the time being, the lenses will not connect directly to phones since they require a more power-efficient short-range wireless connection. “Bluetooth LE was excessively talkative and power demanding,” says Steve Sinclair, Mojo Vision’s SVP of Product, who showed me the newest samples. “We had no choice but to make our own.” The wireless connection used by Mojo Vision is in the 5GHz band, but Sinclair says the business still has work to do to ensure that the wireless connection does not receive or produce any interference.
Sinclair explains, “A phone does not have the radio that we require.” “Because of the lens’ transmit strength, it needs to be close to the head.” He claims that the technology may be integrated into a helmet or even spectacles, but that for now, a neckband-style gadget makes the most sense.
In the future, Mojo would want to have longer-range connectivity. The neck-worn processor, on the other hand, will be able to connect to phones. It connects by pulling GPS from phones and using the phone’s modem, thereby turning the neckband into a bridge.
Getting around a teeny-tiny UI
Wearing an eye-tracking, display-enabled contact lens isn’t the same as lifting my head and glancing around the room with a lens on a stick in front of my face. Even after this demonstration, the real-world experience of wearing Mojo Vision’s lenses is unclear. However, seeing how the interface works on-lens makes the experience feel a lot more genuine than it did at my last Mojo demo in January 2020.
It’s similar in many respects to a pair of smart glasses called Focals created by North, which Google purchased in 2020. North Focals projected a small LED display in the eye that functioned as a little readout but lacked eye tracking. I can see how gazing around the glass can reveal bits of information, similar to a wristwatch or Google Glass on my head… except in a different way. The vibrant show lingers in the air like engraved light before dissipating.
When I recently visited Mojo Vision in Las Vegas, I saw a ringlike interface recreated in 2020 on an eye-tracking Vive Pro VR headset. Around the ring, I can see a little reticle that settles on small app icons, and
I see a travel app that resembles searching up flight information on a plane, as well as a little visual that tells where my seat is. I can look out the other windows (my Uber ride info, my gate). Another app-like widget simulates the appearance of pop-up fitness statistics on the display (heart rate, lap information, like a smartwatch readout). Images are shown in another widget: I see a little infant Yoda (also known as Grogu) portrayed in green tones. Also included is a legendary Han Solo picture from Star Wars. These images demonstrate that the display is suitable for seeing photos and reading text. Another device, a teleprompter, generates text that I can read aloud. When I return my gaze from the applications to the outside ring
The next step is to put it on; after that, medications
The Mojo Vision lens I’m looking at now has a lot more onboard technology than the 2020 version I saw before, but it’s still not entirely functional. “It has a radio, a display, three motion sensors, a number of batteries, and a power management system. It has all of those elements in it “Sinclair explains it to me. However, the lens’s power supply has yet to be turned on so that it can operate in the eye. Rather, the lens is currently mounted to a little arm bracket that I am holding while electricity is provided to it. For the time being, I’m utilising the wireless chip to get data on and off the board.
On the lens itself, the Mojo Lens features a tiny Arm Cortex M0 CPU that manages encrypted data running on and off the lens, as well as power management. In 10-millisecond cycles, the neck band computer will execute the programmes, analyse eye tracking data, and change picture positioning. While the visual data isn’t very demanding (it’s a “300-pixel diameter of content,” according to Sinclair), the CPU will have to keep updating it rapidly and consistently. When objects are out of rhythm, it may quickly become unsettling to the eyeball.
Drew Perkins, the CEO of Mojo Vision, will be the first to put the lens in his eye. The company’s other leaders will follow, followed by the remainder of their executive staff, according to Sinclair. The company’s fitness and sports collaborations, which were revealed earlier this year, are intended to allow for some early testing to evaluate how the glasses may function with fitness and sports training apps.
Additionally, these lenses will require FDA authorization as contact lenses, which Mojo Vision is working on. They’ll need to be built in a variety of prescriptions, and the business hopes to hide the chip technology behind an artificial iris to make the lenses appear more natural.