Today’s mobile devices are smaller, more power-efficient, and have more capability than we could have imagined just a decade ago. Offering ever-increasing levels of user functionality, mobile devices are now ubiquitous, and are rapidly becoming the primary mechanisms through which we interact with the digital world, our physical environment, and one another. An unintended side effect of our dependence on the current crop of mobile devices is that they are driving us to distraction.
A major industry dynamic will shake things up for the better. Sensors are getting smaller and more efficient, and they’re offering attractive new functionality, giving us the ability to monitor our air and water quality, assess potential toxins in our food sources, and analyze personal health conditions, to name a few use cases. At the same time, the realization of flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) through new materials and production processes, better integration with other electronic components, more efficient energy production and consumption, and pervasive wireless connectivity are fueling the next generation of devices and experiences. What can we expect from tomorrow’s mobile devices — and how can we manage them, instead of having them manage us?
SEMI’s Nishita Rao caught up with Mike Wiemer, Ph.D., VP of Engineering, CTO and co-founder, Mojo Vision, to preview his February 25 keynote, The Art of the Possible, at FLEX|MEMS & Sensors Technical Congress (MSTC) 2020, February 24-27 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in San Jose, California.
SEMI: Mojo Vision has conducted its own research on human interaction with mobile devices. Why is this important?
Wiemer: Our mobile devices have given us access to the information we need and want, improving many aspects of our lives. But our devices have also influenced our relationships and attention to our environment in negative ways. We believe that the next mobile computing platform must improve this situation. Instead of pulling us away from the moment, our devices need to embrace more human-centric engagement while still letting us access information that improves our quality of life. Mojo Vision has worked to understand this problem through our own studies and research so we can better develop an approach to address it.
SEMI: How are key technical trends driving size, efficiency and capability advancements in mobile devices?
Wiemer: Tiny low-power sensors are enabling ever-smaller feature-rich mobile devices that run longer on a battery charge. Smartwatches are a good example. Just a few years ago, smartwatches were not that much more than small screens on our wrists. Today, we have GPS, EKG/health monitoring, and cellular wireless interfaces all inside the same form factor.
As this trend continues, we at Mojo Vision predict that our devices will continue to shrink and become even more personal: They’ll be more continuously worn and matched to our own needs and behaviors. This trend towards invisible personal devices is something we’re trying to accomplish with our solutions at Mojo Vision.
SEMI: What is Mojo Vision’s concept of “Invisible Computing?”
Wiemer: Our vision of Invisible Computing is based on the idea that our wearable devices should be invisible to those around us, encouraging more human interactions. These wearables should be invisible and unobtrusive to users themselves. Our Mojo Lens, which contains a full display and sensors housed inside a contact lens platform, exemplifies this vision.
Using proprietary microelectronics and the world’s densest microdisplay to layer digital images and information seamlessly, Mojo Lens is redefining augmented reality.
Our mobile devices today continue to increase the quantity and magnitude of interruptions. We think that shouldn’t happen. As a socially invisible device that delivers contextual, relevant content, the Mojo Lens lets us go about our daily lives, naturally interacting with other people while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of augmented reality. We think Invisible Computing can change our relationship with our devices, as well as seemingly give us superpowers. For more information, download the Mojo Vision report, Device Distraction: Understanding the Problem, Re-Thinking the Solution.
SEMI: Can you tell us more about Mojo Lens?
Wiemer: At its foundation, Mojo Lens is a nanoLED display, radio and sensor platform, integrated using flex technologies, and placed on your eye to provide important information. Mojo Lens can elevate or suppress this information to decrease reliance on your other devices.
Unlike your smartwatch or smartphone, which react to you in a binary manner because they don’t have enough information to make autonomous decisions, Mojo Lens understands the context of your experience. That’s because it’s based on our Invisible Computing platform, which can understand your activity. Mojo Lens recognizes if you’re engaged in a conversation, driving or having a coffee, and it reacts with information accordingly.
Mojo Lens could act like a real-time interpreter, for example. When someone speaks to me in a language I don’t understand, I should see “subtitles.” Or if I’m having a conversation with someone, Mojo Lens wouldn’t interrupt me with a notification at that moment. For the 92% of Americans who are interrupted by their devices during conversations every day, this prioritization can boost productivity. More importantly, it can improve the quality of our connections with the people around us.
Mojo Vision’s microLED platform offers a world-record pixel pitch of over 14,000ppi and pixel density of over 200Mppi², making it the smallest, densest display for dynamic — or moving — content.
SEMI: What would you like FLEX|MSTC attendees to take away from your presentation?
Wiemer: It feels like the speed at which people are defining important problems and tackling them is increasing every year. And there are so many important problems to solve: space travel, autonomous driving, electric vehicles, alternative energy, quantum computing, lifespan extension, increased food production, brain-computer interfaces, AR/VR. All these problems seem impossible and “crazy,” until some group of people comes along to put a framework in place that can address them. Interestingly, these frameworks aren’t necessarily new. Rather, they build upon existing technologies and capabilities.
MEMS sensors and FHE are good examples. From smart textiles, flexible displays and biological sensors to miniature radars, MEMS sensors and FHE technologies are essential building blocks. Many of the big problems we can imagine today will be solved by stacking today’s MEMs and FHE technologies in imaginative new ways. So what do we do next? I’d like to encourage FLEX|MSTC attendees to first define the problem to solve and then define the technology — rather than starting with the technology solution.
Mike Weimer is a serial entrepreneur and proven science and technology leader in complex systems development and integration. Before co-founding Mojo Vision as CTO, Weimer co-founded and served as president at Solar Junction, a high-efficiency solar cell company (acquired) where he and his team set two world records for the highest-efficiency solar cells ever made by humans.
After Solar Junction, Wiemer joined New Enterprise Associates (NEA) as an Entrepreneur in Residence where he sourced new investments and helped portfolio companies to develop their business and funding strategies. He is a board director at Stratio Corporation and an advisor at Stanford’s StartX Accelerator. He holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.
For more information, visit Mojo Vision.
Interested in engaging with the MEMS & sensors supply chain? MEMS & Sensors Industry Group is a SEMI technology community that enables professionals in the MEMS and sensors industry to accelerate business results by addressing common challenges and opportunities.
Nishita Rao is marketing manager for technology communities at SEMI.