Mojo Vision puts contact lens production ‘on hold’ as it lays off 75% of staff

We’ve met with Mojo Vision for several CESes, watching the startup’s AR contact lenses develop, year by year. These sorts of things take a lot of time and money, of course – and these days it seems increasingly difficult to find either. Today, the California -based firm announced that it is “decelerating” work on the Mojo Lens, citing, “significant challenges in raising capital.”

In an announcement posted to it site, CEO Drew Perkins blames insurmountable headwinds, including the bad economy and the “yet-to-be proven market potential for advanced AR products” in its ability to raise the necessary funding required to keep the project afloat.

“Although we haven’t had the chance yet to see it ship and to reach its full potential in the marketplace, we have proven that what was once considered science fiction can be developed into a technical reality,” Perkins writes. “Even though the pursuit of our vision for Invisible Computing is on hold for now, we strongly believe that there will be a future market for Mojo Lens and expect to accelerate it when the time is right.”

Instead of focusing on Lens, Mojo is focusing its resources on the Micro-LED technology that powers it. The company had developed a 14,000 ppi microLED display as the product’s foundation. “We believe Micro-LED will disrupt the entire $160B display industry and our unique technology puts us at the forefront of this disruption,” Perkins adds.

Along with the pivot, the company has also made a dramatic cut to head count, reducing its staff by 75%. The lays will impact roles and divisions across the startup.

Perkins adds that the Mojo may return to the project, writing,

Although we haven’t had the chance yet to see it ship and to reach its full potential in the marketplace, we have proven that what was once considered science fiction can be developed into a technical reality. Even though the pursuit of our vision for Invisible Computing is on hold for now, we strongly believe that there will be a future market for Mojo Lens and expect to accelerate it when the time is right.

The company’s most recent funding round was a $45 million Series B-1 announced a year ago tomorrow. The company declined further comment.

Mojo Vision puts contact lens production ‘on hold’ as it lays off 75% of staff by Brian Heater originally published on TechCrunch

Smart contact lens startup Mojo Vision partners with Adidas and other sports brands

For the past few years, Mojo Vision has had a small presence at CES, offering up glimpses into the potential of its augmented reality contact lenses. Every year, the picture seems a little closer, if still far away. For reasons having to do with the pandemic, we won’t be meeting with the California firm this year, though it is offering up some more insight into what a future of smart contacts could look like.

The big news at this year’s show is a number of partnerships with brands across the sports spectrum, including: Adidas Running, Trailforks (cycling/hiking), Wearable X (yoga), Slopes (skiing) and 18Birdies (golf). In spite of the partnerships, the tech still isn’t ready for market — among other things, the company is seeking FDA approval.

Instead, what it’s showcasing here is the potential role an effectively eye-mounted display could play in the lives of professional athletes.

“Today’s wearable devices can be helpful to athletes, but they can also distract them from the focus of the activity; we think there’s a better way to deliver athletic performance data,” Mojo Senior Director of Product Management David Hobbs said in a release. “Wearable innovation in existing form factors is starting to reach its limits. At Mojo, we’re interested in better understanding what’s still missing and how we can make that information accessible without disrupting someone’s focus and flow during training — when it matters most.”

Effectively, the company’s envisioning a world where data can be served up without a bulky wearable or forcing the athelete to look down at their device. At the very least, the partnerships are a clear indication that Mojo is going after sports as an early market for its technology, in addition to other applications, like assistance for the visually impaired.

The company also announced today a $45 million Series B-1, following last April’s $51 million raise. This latest round, which features Amazon Alexa Fund, PTC, Edge Investments and HiJoJo Partners, brings the firm’s total funding up to $205 million.

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3D-printed glasses startup Fitz is making custom protective eyewear for healthcare workers

A lot of startups have answered the call for more personal protective equipment (PPE) and other essentials to support healthcare workers in their efforts to curb the spread and impact of COVID-19. One of those is direct-to-consumer 3D-printed eyewear brand Fitz, which is employing its custom-fit glasses technology to build protective, prescription specs to frontline healthcare workers in need of the best protection they can get.

Fitz Protect is a version of Fitz’s eyesore that uses the same custom measurement tool Fitz created for use via its iOS app, made possible by Apple’s depth-sensing Face ID camera on newer iPhones and all iPad Pro models. The app allows virtual try-on, and provides millimeter-level accurate measurements for a custom fit. Protect is a version of the glasses that still supports a wide range of prescriptions, but that also extends further like safety glasses to provide more coverage and guard against errant entry of any fluids through the eyes.

Health care professionals are doing what they can to ensure their face, mouth, nose and eyes are protected from any coughs, sneezes or other droplet-spreading activity from COVID-19 patients that could pass on the infection. These measures have more broadly focused on face shields that feature a single transparent plastic sheet, and N95 masks (and alternatives when not available) to protect the mouth and nose.

Fitz CEO Gabriel Schlumberger explained via email that the design for Fitz Protect came from working frontline doctors in nurses from New York, LA and Texas who were all looking for something to source prescription protective eyewear.

“More than 60% of doctors are glasses wearers, and current guidance is for them to stop wearing contact lenses,” Schlumberger explained, adding that Fitz Protect is also designed to be worn in conjunction with a face shield, when that’s an available option, and provide yet another layer of defense.

“We heard from prescription glasses wearers that their standard glasses didn’t provide anywhere near adequate coverage, especially over the eyebrows, and in some cases they were adding cardboard cut-outs,” he said. “We leveraged our existing system to create something much better. ”

Fitz’s model also helps on the pricing side because it’s already designed to be an aggressively cost-competitive offering when compared to traditional prescription eyesore. Their glasses typically retail for just $95 including frames, lenses and shipping, and are also offered in a $185 per year unlimited frame membership plan. For doctors, nurses and hospital staff, the entire cost of Fitz Protect is being waived, and the company is seeking donations to help offset its own manufacturing costs, which currently stand at around $100 per set, though process improvements should bring that down according to Schlumberger as they expand availability.

Already, he said that nearly 3,000 healthcare professionals have signed up to receive a pair in their first week of availability, so they’re working on adding scale to keep up with the unexpected demand.

Investors see an opportunity framed in Lensabl’s prescription lens fulfillment business

Lensabl, the company that has built a business putting prescription lenses into any style of glasses frame, has raised $3.7 million in a new round of funding. 

Based in Los Angeles, Lensabl already has an agreement inked with the city’s latest tech wunderkind, partnering with the spectacles producing augmented reality luminaries at Snap.

“We are the preferred prescription provider of Snapchat Spectacles,” says Lensabl chief executive Andrew Bilinsky. “[And] we are already talking to and partnering with a variety of brands to start and scale their prescription operations [and] really scale our direct to consumer lens business.”

Powering that effort is the new $3.7 million in funding which came from a clutch of big name strategic partners, venture firms and individual angel investors. Rogue Venture Partners, the same lead investor behind SightBox, a contact lens subscription business acquired by Johnson & Johnson, led the round. And additional investors including Birchmere Ventures, Aspect Ventures, Cherry Tree Investments, Amplify, Luma Launch, Watertower Ventures, and Crowdsmart (a crowdfunding platform) also participated in the financing.

For Bilinsky, the opportunity in setting up a business exclusively focused on filling prescriptions means reduced prices and better options for the estimated 188.7 million people who wear corrective eyewear or contact lenses in the U.S.

“We’re offering every different type of prescription lens for every different frame brand,” says Biinsky. “[We’re] mimicking what a customer can do going into a Lens Crafters at up to 70% cheaper than a traditional provider.”

And given the changing ways in which glasses buyers are shopping for frames, launching a business that caters to providing the right lenses at a lower price makes sense, Bilinsky says.

“With Amazon becoming the largest individual reseller of eyewear in the U.S., every frame that people buy that needs to be re-lensed. It’s a secondary market in the same way that you would put new rims on the car,” says Billinsky.

Lensabl offers about 400 different permutations of lenses and 20 different tint colors. “It’s a customization platform for your frames,” says Bilinsky.