Augmented Reality Wearables: Can We Say Goodbye to Headsets?

An augmented reality contact lens may be here sooner than you think.

One of the biggest barriers to metaverse adoption will undoubtedly be the requirement for using a VR headset. As cool as the latest-generation headsets may be, there is a big difference between wearing a headset for a couple of hours while you play a game and wearing a headset all day, every day. After all, even the best headsets are heavy, bulky and hot.

But what if there was another option?

I recently stumbled onto the Mojo Augmented Reality Contact Lens. This amazing device is like something out of a spy movie. It gives you an augmented reality experience without the need for a headset. The contact lens literally renders graphical data over top of your view of the real world. Think about that one for a moment. This contact lens includes the transparent optics required in order to render computer imagery, but it also includes everything else that is required in order for it to function. This includes a power supply, sensors, rendering hardware and more -- all integrated into the lens!

I'm realistic to know that when AR-enabled contact lenses hit the market, most people are not going to run out and buy them. The device has a single color, low resolution display. When released, it's sure to be pricy and wildly impractical, especially at first. But none of that makes the device any less amazing.

I tend to think of AR-enabled contacts as being somewhat like the early days of smart watches. As you may recall, Microsoft once produced its own smart watch called the Microsoft Band. The Band had a small screens and a relatively few use cases. Even so, I still found that the devices made me far more productive because I did not have to constantly check my phone for new messages. Whenever a message would arrive, I would receive a haptic alert and then a preview of the message would scroll across the Band's screen. It was a huge time saver and it helped me to respond to important messages in a timelier manner.

The point is that while there were plenty of things that the Band was physically incapable of doing, it was really great at surfacing the information that was most needed at a given moment. If you needed anything beyond that you could always break out your smartphone. That's exactly what I think that first- (and probably second-) generation augmented reality contact lenses will be like. The devices will probably work well for showing you smartphone alerts, but not much more.

As time goes on the display resolution will inevitably improve and we may eventually even see a model with a full color display. My hope is that the engineers who are working on the project will also place a major emphasis on comfort and that future devices will not be overly thick, rigid, or give off a lot of heat as they function.

But let's suppose for a moment that in a few years someone manages to create a version of the device that is comfortable, has good battery life, a really high-resolution full color display and a reasonable price tag. Would such a device catch on?

There will always be some people who would never use such a device because they are freaked out by the idea of jamming a contact lens in their eye. If you put aside those who may be a bit squeamish, I think that there is a chance that an augmented reality contact lens could succeed where other devices have failed.

At one time, Google Glass was considered to be the must-have augmented reality device of the moment. However, one of the big factors that ultimately led to Glass's demise was the fact that there was no way to wear it discreetly. At the time, I knew a few people who owned Google Glass devices. One mentioned to me that the device wasn't worth the hassle because he had people asking him about it all day long. Another friend told me that whenever he wore Google Glass, the people around him looked at him with distrust. It was as if he were somehow using the device to invade their privacy. Still another friend feared being mugged for the device.

An augmented reality contact lens would address all of these problems. A wearer could operate such a device without anyone around them even realizing it. Assuming that there are a decent collection of applications that are capable of sending data to the lens (or receiving data from the lens), it could ultimately turn out to be an amazing device.

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 22-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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