Innovega Inc., a Bellevue, Wash., company that uses disposable contact lenses in combination with high-tech glasses to create a digitally augmented view of the world, announced a licensing agreement with a company that plans to offer the technology to assist people who are visually impaired.
The unnamed licensee is “one of the world’s leading providers of assistive technology for the visually impaired, including the legally blind,” Innovega said in announcing the deal Monday.
Innovega’s technology uses contact lenses to let people see images displayed on the interior surface of eyeglasses, which would otherwise be too close to view in focus, while also seeing the real world beyond.
The commercial license is the latest step in a long journey for the company. It has been nearly 14 years since Innovega was incorporated, and more than 10 years since GeekWire first reported on the Seattle-area company from its small booth at the giant Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
After doing extensive contract work for the U.S. government and military, the company has been shifting its focus to the commercial market, including the development of soft contact lenses that can be worn all day. Innovega described the new agreement as the first commercial licensing deal for its next-generation display eyewear system.
Innovega’s progress comes as Meta, Microsoft, Apple and others bring new attention to the metaverse, the emerging concept of virtual worlds in which Innovega believes its technology will ultimately have widespread applications.
“It is a pivotal time for us,” said Stephen Willey, Innovega’s CEO and co-founder, who was co-founder and president of laser projection company MicroVision earlier in his career. “Underneath all of this, you’ve got Mark Zuckerberg, Satya Nadella and Tim Cook saying, ‘We need these smart glasses.’ … And they don’t have them.”
Innovega believes its patented technology, combining lightweight eyewear and disposable soft contact lenses, will ultimately win out over approaches that require bulky headsets or low-resolution displays.
The identity of Innovega’s commercial partner is being kept confidential for now at its request, Willey said. Distribution of the technology will require regulatory approval. Innovega is currently in Phase III clinical trials with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, and that process is expected most of this year.
Willey said the commercial agreement helps to validate the company’s plan to license its technology to others that will handle the manufacturing and distribution of final products.
Innovega has 10 employees in addition to contractors. The company has generated about $6 million over its lifetime, and raised about $16 million in funding, including a $3 million funding round led by Tencent in 2017, and more than $5 million thus far in an equity crowdfunding campaign.