Augmented reality tech hasn’t taken off like some thought, but Mojo Vision shows some investors still believe in it. 

James Martin/CNET

There’s little debate that, as tech pushes further into our lives, we’ll soon be using augmented reality glasses that overlay computer images on the real world. What we don’t know is when and what companies we’ll be buying them from.

Microsoft and Florida-based startup Magic Leap are betting we’ll be wearing headsets, which they’ve both released in the past couple years. Microsoft’s already signed companies like oil producer Chevron, as well as various manufacturers and the military, to use its HoloLens headset, which starts at $3,500. Magic Leap, meanwhile, has signed partnerships with companies including Star Wars maker Lucasfilm, but so far appears to be struggling to actually sell its Magic Leap One, which starts at $2,295. 

They’re far from alone. Facebook has said it’s working on smart-glasses in addition to its Oculus virtual reality headsets that put a screen so close to your eyes that it tricks your brain into believing you’re in a computer-generated world. Apple, meanwhile, is said to be working on a headset as well, which a source told CNET will incorporate aspects of VR and AR technology.

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Mojo Vision, a startup with staff made up of veterans from the tech industry’s biggest hitters, including Google, Amazon, HP and Apple, is betting we’ll eventually be wearing contact lenses instead of computer-assisted glasses. And on Wednesday, the company announced it secured another $51 million in funding, bringing its total to more than $159 million. The company declined to disclose what its valuation was but did say it rose with the new funding.

The new funding marks a vote of confidence among some investors despite Magic Leap’s announcement earlier this month it was making deep cuts to its staff. There’s also the global economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 215,000 people around the globe and infected more than 3 million.

It’s unclear when Mojo Vision’s smart contacts will make their way to market, but the company has been discussing the tech more publicly in the past year. During the annual CES in Las Vegas this January, Mojo Vision showed off a prototype allowing people to see text, sports scores, weather and other information in a lens held just in front of their eye.

“They’re not just meant to give everyday people James Bond powers in their eyes; they’re really looking to assist people whose vision impairment could use help, like those with macular degeneration,” CNET’s Scott Stein wrote after seeing the technology.

“We’ve been hard at work creating the world’s first true smart contact lens, and by true we mean it really builds in all the capabilities of a solution that you can wear all day, and project augmented reality information to the wearer whenever you need it,” said Steve Sinclair, vice president of product and marketing at Mojo Vision (and a veteran of Apple and Motorola.)

For now, it seems investors are willing to keep backing the company.

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