Google are taking their wearable technology ambitions even further with a smart contact lens—but it might not be quite what you think. It’s not Google Glass plastered onto your eye. Instead of sending you Google+ notifications, its transmitters are used for an entirely different end goal: monitoring diabetics’ tears for glucose.
The lens can assess the glucose levels in the tears of the wearer and transmit the data wirelessly to a mobile device so the wearer can track their condition.
Researchers developed microscopic chips that could track glucose levels and placed them on a small bendable film, which is then embedded between two tiny sheets of lens material. A small hole is punctured in the lens to allow tears to seep through and reach the glucose sensor. This data is then transmitted to your device every second.
“We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease,” said co-project founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz in a blog post.
The lenses are still in development but Google are in discussions with the FDA and has revealed their work to the public in the hopes of attracting expert partners to join the research and development of the technology and to get it onto the market.
People with diabetes need to regularly check their glucose levels and this can involve uncomfortable or painful methods such as pricking the skin to withdraw blood for a test. Meanwhile, doctors use methods such as tests on urine, saliva or tears to check glucose levels. Google’s new lenses would allow a diabetes sufferer to monitor their glucose levels in a quicker and less invasive fashion.
There are 382 million people with diabetes in the world and the American Diabetes Association has warned that, while they welcome technological research in treating diabetes, the results of the lenses’ monitoring needs to be precise.
Google lens are being developed by Google X, the offshoot of the tech giant that handles their most ambitious and risky projects such as Glass and self-driving cars. These lenses see Google moving further into wearable technologies and crossing over into healthcare tech.
“We’ve always said that we’d seek out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange, and at a time when the International Diabetes Federation (PDF) is declaring that the world is “losing the battle” against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot,” said Google.