Posting from Las Vegas: Augmented reality has made progress on smartphones, with apps letting people layer information and graphics over a view of the real world. A startup from the Seattle region is looking to take the next step toward an AR future with special contact lenses that make it possible to view objects projected onto glasses a short distance away from the eye.
The company, Innovega, is exhibiting its technology here at the Consumer Electronics Show this week, as part of a special “tech zone” organized by the National Science Foundation, which supports the company’s work. Innovega was founded by Randall Sprague, the former chief engineer of Bothell-based Microvision, along with Stephen Willey, the former Microvision president.
The contact lenses use optical filtering nanotechnology to let people see images projected onto the glasses by pico projectors, while still being able to see beyond the images into the normal field of view. The company sees the technology as an alternative to bulkier headgear currently used to achieve similar effects.
But will people really want to wear contact lenses, along with glasses, to augment the world?
“The demographic we’re after is going to be a younger group — the 15 to 35 year olds,” explains Sprague. “In that age group, 20 percent of Americans already wear contact lenses on a daily basis. That group is also fairly quick at adapting to things, so even the other 80 percent would be candidates. The real value here is the mass consumer. Augmented reality is going to happen.”
Possible applications are pretty much endless, but they could include augmented-reality video games or real-world scenarios such as laying out a suggested route in front of a person as they’re walking down the street. Innovega is aiming for those kinds of mass-market scenarios, and one of the reasons it’s at CES is to find partners to help bring the technology to market.