Innovega Mojo Vision companies prepared first prototypes of smart lenses and have very clear the market to which they will be targeted!
Narrator: imagine a world where when you look around your street you find directions or see information about your heart rate while cycling without having to look down. All this could be possible thanks to smart lenses, a possibility of the world of science fiction that is becoming more and more a reality. Samsung, Google, and Sony have been experimenting with smart lenses since 2014 in the hope that they will be able to take photos and videos in the blink of an eye or can measure your glucose levels. And today, U.S. optical companies are testing their own prototypes, some of which could show you notifications like those on your phone or give you the information you need without disrupting your vision.
Mike Wiemer: whether you're a delivery man or someone who works in the assembly of parts, being able to have all those directions at your fingertips and with your hands free is important. For example, surgeons with real-time biometrics of the patient. There are some prototypes for sale to the public that we can already see. Can someone be able to interact with a customer, or just look up at the right time, make eye contact and at the same time know about what product they are asking or if there is stock in the warehouse?
Narrator: this all sounds great, but we're still a few years away from putting those contacts in our eyes. Why? It all comes down to technology, medical approval and market value. Let's start with the technology, which has to be very small.
Innovega Mojo Vision companies prepared first prototypes
Ashley Tuan: if you had asked me 10 years ago, I would tell you that it's impossible to put the kind of electronics you need in a lens.
Narrator: nanotechnology for smart lenses was not available until the early 2000s. But even with technology, implementing it involves its own challenges.
Tuan: the concept is simple. I think the hardest part to accomplish is figuring out what engineering can do to put it all together.
Narrator: companies need to carefully determine what type of lenses to use as a base and build the technology from there. Mojo Vision uses a scleral lens with all the technology embedded inside the lens and a wearable that is put on the neck that acts as a processor, while Innovega uses a soft lens with a polarizing filter that is paired with glasses that carry most of the technology - but each type of contact lens has its own difficulties.
Tuan: we have identified that the best lens platform to meet our need is the sclerotic Lens platform because the rigidity of the same is really protective of the eye and provides stability once it is well placed. It is not very popular because it has been difficult to manufacture. Each lens is made to measure. Therefore, it takes longer to adjust the lens and it costs more to make the lens. However, in recent years, sclerotic lenses became more popular again because they realized that they could be made in an easier way, now they are easier to adjust.
Narrator: Meanwhile in Innovega…
Jerome Legerton: we start with a scleral lens, which is like a hard shell. The difficulty we experienced was so great that we then came to the conclusion that it had to be with a softer lens. And even that led us down a different path with the polarizer.
Narrator: after encountering manufacturing problems and polarizer technology, both companies had to make sure their lenses had…
Tuan: better performance, gas permeable.
Narrator: which brings us to the next challenge, medical approval. Since these smart lenses are considered as a medical device, they need to be approved by the FDA.
Legerton: if we go ahead, then we need to prove what we do.
Tuan: they're trying to find out if there's anything that could be potentially harmful.
Narrator: after verifying the physical and chemical properties of the lens material through multiple preclinical tests, companies can now proceed to clinical testing.
Tuan: and then there are the specific animal tests that need to be done. And in those, you can see problems like eye irritation or skin sensitivity. If everything passes, then we can consider doing human testing.
Narrator: currently, both companies are at this point.
Legerton: we have conducted several of the phase two clinics to verify our design and compare it with other marketed lenses to find out where they are.
Tuan: we will discuss the worst case scenario and mitigate the risk to a minimum. And then we'll see if it's comfortable, if it's as functional as expected and if it's a really amazing experience.
Narrator: the last challenge is to market the product. Some of the reasons why Google Glass didn't become popular was because of its high price, uncomfortable viewing, and video recording capabilities. But Mojo Vision and Innovega are in no hurry to attract the masses. First they help a specific market and then they intend to grow from there.
Legerton: the first customers will be the visually impaired. The next customers would be in sports analytics and sports performance improvement, where people need hands-free but still need to have the information available.
Wiemer: hospitality and entertainment are interested, the car market is interested, retail is interested. I think what we need to do is demonstrate our ability to deliver and the desire of the market to use it, even on a relatively small scale. And if we can do that, we earn the right to continue. And if we continue to earn the right to continue, I think we have a whole new category to explore for decades.
Narrator: Mojo Vision hasn't gotten a price or release date yet, but Innovega says its smart lenses could receive approval for commercialization by the end of 2021. Your smart lenses could cost the same as your daily disposable lenses, and your glasses could cost between $ 3,000 and $ 5,000. But the company expects the price to decrease over time once it can be mass produced.
Wiemer: in the years I've been working on this topic I've come to the following conclusion: these smart lenses are important. There is no specific product you can buy today, but I can assure you there will be.
Michelle Yan: currently, both companies still need another device to pair their smart lenses, and Innovega even plans to keep their glasses long-term. But this is the greatest progress we have seen so far. What do you think? Would you use smart contacts? What are some of your concerns? Let us know in the comments, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to not miss the next episode.
Innovega Mojo Vision companies prepared first prototypes