Google Begins Development of Smart Contact Lenses

By Clayton Hamshar July 16, 2014

With smartglasses finally on the market, Google has moved on to the next frontier: contact lenses. These devices are different, however, in the fact that they are focused more on medical functionality rather than communication.

Google has teamed up with Novartis, a large healthcare corporation known for being the parent company of contact lens manufacturer Alcon, to take the microelectronics technology and apply it to actual lenses. Alcon will license the lenses and develop various medical applications.

Devoted to developing this technology into a marketable product, Google has already acquired a patent for integrating ophthalmic electrochemical sensors into the lenses as a means of measuring glucose levels for people suffering from diabetes. The measurements are updated in real time on a connected mobile device with the proper app installed. This technique is much less stressful and more reliable than traditional finger-picking methods.

Another application that has been developed for these lenses is a visual correction that compensates for presbyopia, an eye condition that affects older people and makes it more difficult to focus on nearby objects. The technology making the correction is similar to the mechanics in an autofocus camera.

In the future advocates of the technology hope that many more useful applications will be discovered, possibly even a solution for blindness.

The electronics are almost invisible, a Google spokesperson saying they are “so small they look like bits of glitter" and include an antenna to rely information that is thinner than human hair. Using a combination of two lenses that surround the electronics, one convex and one concave, it still allows tears to flow naturally across without interfering with normal eye functionality.

There is no prediction for when smart contact lenses will reach the consumer market; officials insist that it is still much too early in the development period. Further details of the agreement between Google and Novartis have yet to be released.

Edited by Alisen Downey

Contributing Writer

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