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Cyborg sight? Contact lens prototype teases night vision & AR heads-up display

By Benjamin Bullard
Mojo Vision AR contact lens demonstration

Why should a cyborg get to have all the fun? If you’ve ever coveted Arnold Schwarzenegger’s insta-scan eyesight ability as the T-800 Terminator, then an upstart company that’s tackling one of science fiction’s biggest and most long-running ideas may just be on track to deliver the quality-of-life augment of your dreams.

Forgive us if we sound a little hyped. But a future when we might one day be able to see in the dark or note vital information by the mere flick of an eye appears to be a step closer, thanks to Mojo Vision, a company that rolled out its prototype Mojo Lens contacts at this year’s recently-concluded Consumer Electronics Show.

Sure, tons of tech companies show up at CES each year promising the moon, while prototyping gadgets that mostly exist more in concept than in reality. But media outlets who’ve spent hands-on time with the innovative prototype say it appears to be the real deal, despite a couple of key kinks (like its current need for a large external battery, not to mention eventual FDA approval). But if Mojo can clear some remaining hurdles, it may not be too long before real people can walk around while looking at the world on a whole ‘nother meta-level. After all, who wouldn't want to have all the handy heads-up info that Arnold's got on tap in the opening seconds of this clip?

Bypassing the (admittedly still killer-looking) sci-fi convention of a visor display like we’ve all craved watching Tony Stark’s Iron Man or Metroid’s Samus Aran, Mojo instead went straight for the the eye itself. The Mojo Lens packs in a tiny 14,000 ppi MicroLED display, which currently delivers green-monocrome text and night-vision outlines (though a multi-color version’s also in development.) Up-close demos from both Fast Company and C|net reveal that the display can already show basic information like time, temperature, heart rate, and sports scores. In a recent demonstration of the lens’ night vision (by holding it close to the eye; Mojo wasn’t ready to allow direct contact), the lens revealed, “etched in green, the street signs and the face of the person giving” the demo, according to C|net. 

Down the road, connecting future versions of the lens to the internet (via a nearby phone and a “tiny single-core ARM-based processor,” according to Fast Company), the contacts — especially when worn in stereoscopic pairs — could begin serving up a slew of augmented reality functions. Imagine being able to read text on signs too distant to decipher with regular sight, or having the outlines of specific objects highlighted and superimposed on your normal field of vision. For people with age-related retinal degeneration, Mojo also is developing a way for the lenses to magnify objects, or to shift their projections onto the portion of the retina that’s still healthy. 

Add to that the ability to dial up real-time information about your surroundings, plus the portability that Mojo hopes to eventually attain by shrinking the power supply to a “thin-film, solid-state battery within the lens” (via Fast Company), and we could one day be taking in so much information through our eyes that we might just need some extra brain power to process it all. 

Then again, that’s a big step — one that melds man and machine in a cyborg-like way that some of us might not quite be ready for. But if and when the contacts themselves hit the market, sign us up as eager, early-adopting guinea pigs.