Mojo Vision and Menicon form joint development agreement for smart contact lens product
Through the development agreement, Menicon and the smart contact lens start-up will conduct a series of feasibility studies
Mojo Vision has been developing what it suggests is the first augmented reality smart contact lens, the Mojo Lens. The lens overlays images, symbols and text on users’ natural field of vision in a way that the company suggests does not obstruct wearers’ view.
Intended applications for the smart contact lens include serving as a low vision aid, assisting with mobility and reading through enhanced image overlays, or enabling specialists in businesses to access real-time information without stopping to look at a mobile device.
Under the agreement, Mojo and Menicon will conduct a series of feasibility studies, with areas of collaboration focusing on the contact lens materials, cleaning and fitting.
The partnership will apply Menicon’s experience in rigid gas permeable lens research, development and manufacturing to Mojo’s smart contact lens development.
If the feasibility studies prove successful, the companies have said they may consider a more extensive working relationship in the future.
President of Menicon, Dr Hidenari Tanaka, said: “This agreement with Mojo is a key step forward in our expansion of Menicon’s technology initiatives.”
Dr Tanaka described Mojo as a company with a “vision for the future of contact lens wear that aligns with Menicon’s aspirations,” and added: “We believe that both companies can bring together skill sets and technologies that will support the successful development of a truly breakthrough product.”
Drew Perkins, CEO and co-founder of the California-based Mojo Vision, called the agreement a “significant step forward” for the Mojo Lens.
“While we continue making progress in developing our smart contact lens technology, our collaboration with Menicon will provide us valuable insights that can accelerate our progress,” he continued.
Inside Mojo Vision and the Mojo Lens2020 has been a key year for the start-up, as it announced its plans for the development of the Mojo Lens in January.
The company’s product development plans had previously remained in stealth mode, though it holds patents for the development of an AR smart contact lens dating back over 10 years.
In April this year, the company announced that it had raised more than $51 million in a Series B-1 investment round, taking its funding up to more than $159 million.
Mojo Vision chief technology officer and co-founder, Mike Wiemer, told OT the primary use case for the Mojo Lens will be as an assistive technology for people dealing with visual impairments like macular degeneration, glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa.
“Mojo Lens is designed to give the user more confidence and independence through enhanced functional vision and enable improved mobility, reading and sighting,” Mr Wiemer explained.
Early plans for supporting people with vision impairments include providing the ability to increase contrast for text, highlight the edges of objects and magnify text in real time. Mr Wiemer suggested this would help people with low vision to see outlines, “essentially giving them a better map of the objects, boundaries and people around them.”
The company has partnered with the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired to enable the non-profit’s clients to provide their input to the team of scientists and engineers.
It is also working with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) through its Breakthrough Devices Program, designed to provide safe and timely access to medical devices that can help treat “irreversibly debilitating” diseases or conditions by accelerating development, assessment and review.
The company intends to gain FDA certification in the US first before expanding to other markets.
Longer-term, the company plans to develop the product to benefit consumers as an alternative to current smart wearable devices. The device could provide workers or specialists access to real-time information without having to look away at a mobile device or through a vision-blocking headset, which the company suggests would support improved productivity and precision.
“We see the product being used in situations where the option to wear a headset or AR glasses isn’t available due to customer interaction, safety concerns, or environmental extremes,” Mr Wiemer said.
The company has called the eyes-up AR experience ‘Invisible Computing’ – a platform enabling information to be provided instantaneously and unobtrusively in a hands-free way.
“Because the display is so close to your eye inside of the contact lens, you see around it without blocking your vision,” Mr Wiemer explained. The display points towards the fovea centralis, directed towards the focal plane of the retina.
The Mojo Lens is a medical-grade scleral lens, which will vault over the top of the cornea. As the lens would need to be custom fitted for each wearer, it will remain stable on the eye, the company suggests.
“The display that is in the lens won’t float around like it would if it was a hydrogel soft lens, for example. This is important because we want the display to only move as the wearer directs it – by looking in different directions,” Mr Wiemer explained.
Work between Mojo and Menicon is just beginning, so while there is no official timeline for the development of the lens, the company plans to provide updates as the work progresses.