Google introduces smart contact lens project to measure glucose levels

Google logoIt's not April 1. It's still 2014. This isn't a joke. Google just introduced a smart contact lens.

For now it's only a Google[x] experiment, but the idea involves a contact lens with a small wireless chip and a sensor that can measure a diabetic's glucose levels. For someone with diabetes, glucose levels require constant monitoring, usually by pricking the end of the finger and putting a drop of blood into a glucose measuring device. Google's contact lens measures glucose via the tear fluid in a person's eye. This means no more blood and no more picking fingers.

Google introduces smart contact lens project to measure glucose levels

Google says it's currently testing prototypes that can take a glucose reading once per second, and the eventual plan is to integrate an LED to notify the user that their glucose levels need tending to. One of the bylines on the blog post is Babak Parviz, a Google[x] employee who has given numerous talks about embedding LEDs and other sensors into a contact lens.

Parviz had previously partnered with Microsoft while at the University of Washington, but he was picked up by Google a few years ago and founded the Glass team. Now Google is developing the project in-house and doing the footwork necessary to make a product like this a reality.

If you're wondering how power works, one of Praviz's previous projects was a contact lens with a working LED. Power for that was described as being "powered remotely using a 5-millimeter-long antenna printed on the lens to receive gigahertz-range radio-frequency energy from a transmitter placed ten centimetres from the eye." The copper circle around the edge of this lens is most likely an inductive charging coil, so actual use of this will probably require some kind of face-mounted charging antenna.

Google is currently in discussions with the FDA, as embedding electronics so close to the eye could be a potential health hazard. The electric components are sandwiched between two layers of contact lens material, so nothing hard is touching the eye. The company warns that the idea is "still [in its] early days" for the technology, but it has completed multiple clinical research studies and has gone through a few prototype designs. Google is going public now in the search for more partners and experts to help with the project. And hey, eventually this kind of technology will lead to on-eye computers!

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google, technologies

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