Smart contact lenses: Would you wear tiny computers in your eyes?
16 June 2022
Looking to the future
Technology is progressing at an incredibly fast pace and we rely on these advancements in almost every area of our lives. Just think how often you check your phone for directions, or your smart watch to glance at your heart rate? What about the information boards in train stations? And now, imagine that all of this information was displayed on a contact lens that you’re wearing on your eye.
Well, you need imagine no longer as Mojo Vision have created such a lens – referred to as a smart contact lens – which they believe could eventually replace the smartphones and smart watches we rely on today. The lens is a scleral lens which means that it’s bigger than the traditional contact lenses we use. This smart contact lens extends over the whites of your eyes (an area called the sclera) and is multipurpose. Not only does it display a range of information, which we’ll discuss in further depth later, but Mojo are also working with optometrists to ensure the lens can correct your vision – just as you’d expect from a normal contact lens.
Who could smart contact lenses benefit?
There are several groups of people who could benefit from wearing smart contact lenses. The first is drivers, or anyone who relies on a satnav, as Mojo CEO, Michael Hayes, said that the lens will be able to display speed limits, directions, and miles left in a journey. Similarly, this could also benefit athletes and runners who are out training, but don’t want to stop and check their phone for directions. Steve Sinclair, SVP of Product and Marketing at Mojo, said that the lens could also display metrics like heart rate, benefiting all kinds of athletes.
A further example of a contact lens feature that could be helpful in daily life is having it display a speech you’re giving. That way, you won’t need to keep checking your notes and, instead, it will be a bit like how newsreaders currently read off an autocue. You could also receive and read messages coming through to your phone, without having to actually check your phone.
How does a smart contact lens work?
The Mojo smart contact lens incorporates a microLED display, smart sensors and solid-state batteries. The lenses charge overnight in a small case, much like you would charge your wireless earphones now. The lens itself has an eye-controlled user interface but it has “an external controller [also known as a relay accessory]… where all the heavy compute happens”. This controller is thought to be best worn like a necklace and, as Bluetooth doesn’t provide a strong enough connection, it is connected to the contact lens via a specialised 5GHz radio.
Other technical aspects of the lens include:
- ARM processor
- Continue eye tracking
- Medical grade battery inside the lens
- 14,000 pixels per inch MicroLED display, 0.5mm in diameter (Mojo say this is the world’s smallest)
The content appearing on the contact lens either moves with your eye or it can be locked to a specific position. Much of technology needed for the lens was invented “from the ground up” in order to counteract issues such as slight movement of the lens inside the eye, rendering all of the content misplaced in the line of vision.
You can read more about the technology behind the lens on the Mojo website.
What are the eye care and vision benefits of a smart contact lens?
One group of people particularly excited about the rise of the smart contact lens are eye care professionals who believe that it will help with the monitoring and diagnosis of a range of eye conditions and diseases. They believe that a smart contact lens could track intraocular pressure and glucose levels, in turn helping with the care of patients with conditions like glaucoma and diabetes. As the lens has direct contact with the tear solution, there is the potential for even more accurate results.
Mojo also says the lens will correct presbyopia, removing the need for reading glasses as the smart contact lenses will adapt to different visual scenarios in real time. Further to this, each lens will be custom-made to fit the wearer’s individual eyeball shape. In a bid to make the lens even more comfortable, it has been designed to sits on the sclera which doesn’t have as many nerve endings as the cornea.
Despite the numerous medical and vision-related benefits of a smart contact lens, there are still safety concerns, as there are with regular contact lenses too. You’re actually 37 times more likely to go blind from a contact lens infection than you are to suffer vision loss due to laser eye surgery. These infections usually occur due to poor contact lens hygiene, and these risks are just a relevant with the smart contact lens. However, as the lens is smart, there is the possibility that it could provide cleaning reminders, as well as prompts on when it needs replacing. Mojo say that the lens can be worn for up to a year, but the lens could provide reminders to ensure that the user is wearing it safely.
Ultimately, with a piece of wearable technology this revolutionary, FDA approval is needed. Further testing phases are also underway before the lens can be rolled out on a wider scale, but it certainly is a very exciting time for the world of vision-related technological advancements.
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