Many people interested in virtual reality (VR) complain about how bulky the current VR headsets are. Although people love the technology, these cumbersome headsets often get in the way of enjoying the VR or augmented reality (AR) experience.
One startup company based in Bellevue, Washington, is hoping to change all of that. This company, called Innovega, is hard at work developing both normal-sized glasses and contact lenses with the capability of providing users with a totally immersive VR experience.
The VR headsets on the markets nowadays have to be bulky because they are using smartphone-like screens to provide users with an immersive experience. Every screen today has to be at least a couple of inches away from the user's eyes in order for the wearer to correctly perceive the images. The bulky headsets we now see on the market are made the way they are to accommodate for the screen sizes.
What Innovega is doing with their eMacula technology is placing a screen on the inside of a pair of traditional glasses. The user must wear these glasses as well as two special contact lenses to get the full VR experience. Each of these contacts is fitted with dual focal planes that help viewers focus on the screen in front of them.
If users have certain visual problems, these contacts can be tailor made to correct those visual issues as well. Innovega has the ability to take a patient's eye prescription and manufacture quality contacts that can be used every day.
The team at Innovega has been working on this technology for many years now. The company officially started operations in 2008, and it is now going through various clinical trials with these lenses. Innovega hopes to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration soon for the sale of its contacts and VR glasses.
In recent years, Innovega has gained a great deal of attention from big name investors around the world. In particular, Chinese companies are quite interested in Innovega's VR innovations. China's large Internet company Tencent, which owns the popular social media app WeChat, donated roughly $3 million to Innovega. Also, the National Science Foundation in the USA recently gave Innovega a grant of $6 million to pursue the eMacula project.
As of today, the Innovega team is composed of 10 highly skilled professionals. The company is headed by Steve Willey, who was the co-founder of Microvision and also served as the Director and CEO of AirIQ Inc. in the past.
Innovega wants to work in collaboration with other professional VR companies in the near future. In particular, Innovega wants the ability to bring actual media to their eMacula technology.
The eMacula contacts and glasses were initially designed only for the US Army. After countless tests with various optometrists and optical physicists, the Innovega team believes their technology has more uses than just helping soldiers in the battlefield. These VR glasses and contacts, Innovega hopes, could potentially help people with various visual disabilities around the world.