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Seeing the Future

Augmenting reality with contact lenses

Silicon Valley likes to describe game-changing technology as “disruptive.” To those of you who may be wondering, this definition of disruptive is not the same as throwing something into disorder. It has even less to do with how my sophomore geometry teacher described my behavior at parent teacher night.

Any time someone describes something as a disruptive technology they are referring to tech that has the potential to interrupt the status quo or revolutionize a market. Think of how the iPod and later the iPhone disrupted portable electronic devices like the Walk-Man or the original flip-phone. Or how the George Foreman Grill disrupted my life as a young sailor, liberating me from the unhealthy clutches of Hot Pockets.

Technology has the potential to disrupt a market when necessity and scientific achievement match with an accepting public. This requires incredible timing. There are many historical cases in which scientific achievement exceeded the willingness for society to accept growth. It is not just the development of new technology that is critical, it is cultural acceptance and the transition to real-world application where time, money, and even lives are lost. Investors and companies need to thread that needle delicately otherwise they become a cautionary tale: I’m looking at you, Google Glass.

Way ahead of its time, Google Glass placed a diffracted wave guide on the edge of glasses to allow a user to see a screen in the corner of their eye. It was the first example of augmented reality ever placed in commercial production. But it never caught on. Why? Well, it looked weird. Some described it as “pretentious.” Even though Google only intended the product for research purposes only, it still received the painful judgment of the critical public.  But most importantly, the advent of Google Glass failed because it did not supersede the benefit of existing technology. Society didn’t understand the initial use case. So, it became something worse than a failure: it became a novelty.

Flash forward to 2022, and the potential for augmented reality technology has changed dramatically. Heads up displays, or HUDs, are coming in the form of goggles or sunglasses in a number of varieties. Cellular coverage offers access to tons of data at the user level as well. Have they caught on? Not yet. But there is something significantly more exciting on the horizon. Something that will bring happy tears to your eyes:  

The augmented reality contact lens. (Cue angelic music.)

Mojo Vision

Using femto-projectors smaller than the head of a pin, my friends at Mojo Vision have been developing contact lenses with the ability to present data directly onto the eye. Remember that blog about electroneurography I wrote that you couldn’t stop sharing with your friends? Well, not only will contact lenses by companies like Mojo Vision be able to wirelessly communicate with our handheld devices they will also be able to provide sensors directly onto our eye. They may even be able to detect electrical activity in peripheral nerves in the form of electroneurography.

Mojo Vision

How is this relevant? Well, just like a Fitbit or a Whoop band, contact lenses can monitor blood/oxygen or heart rate levels. Future iterations may track pupil dilation or even cognitive brain activity. They will be able to compensate for visual disabilities. Or it can enhance vision for people with an exciting night life like Bruce Wayne. Or my friends in the military.

Augmented reality contact lenses offer the benefit of merging various peripheral technologies into one product. This is the very definition of disruptive technology. Instead of glasses, a watch, a phone, and a laptop, you could very well do with just one of those items and wirelessly connected contact lenses.

Early iterations of this technology will be simple, presenting monochromatic information via green or blue light. But future iterations will go full color, allowing streaming video or application interfaces.  

Is your mind blown yet? I know mine was the first time I saw this. And, I’m not gonna lie. I think I cried a little.

Ok. I lied… I cried a lot.

Augmented reality interfaces allow for information to be presented directly into the eye. But contact lenses offer the ability to remove the bulky hardware and present relevant information to the user at all times, even with their eyes shut. Imagine being able to watch a movie with your eyes closed? Yes, please. Now we can sleep AND watch the Great British Baking Show. Those will be some pretty delicious dreams filled with fresh scones and crisp British wit.

Augmented reality contact lenses may not be as game changing as a George Foreman Grill, but they are a perfect example of the inevitable merge of technologies we’ll see more of in the future. As far as my book, The Hawk Enigma is concerned, you should keep an eye out for this technology understanding this isn’t a bunch of fictional mumbo jumbo. Real-world innovations like this are where my characters get their mojo. 

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J.L. Hancock
J.L. Hancock

Drawing from a graduate level education in national security studies, foreign language expertise, and experience as a technician embedded with special operations forces, J.L. Hancock writes fiction that reflects the complexities of the modern world. His eye for detail and authentic narrative is rooted in the many lives he has lived, the worlds he has seen, and the people who inspire him.