But the lens isn’t going to be used to deliver your e-mail straight into your skull — at least not yet. This project is working to tackle one of the biggest health problems facing the country today: diabetes.
The soft contact lens that Google’s is introducing — it’s still just a prototype — houses a sensor between two layers of lenses that measures the glucose levels in tears. The lens also features a small — really small — antenna, capacitor and controller, so that the information gathered from the lens can move from your eye to a device where that data can be read and analyzed.
According to a short explanation of the technology provided by Google, the chip and sensors are mounted on a small plastic-like film. A tiny pinhole in the lens lets tear fluid seep over the glucose monitor to get regular readings. Right now, the company said, it can get a level reading once every second.
The National Diabetes Education Programestimates that 382 million people and 25.8 million Americans have diabetes. That means that every day — multiple times a day — over 8 percent of people in this country have to take time out of their day to prick themselves to test their blood levels. That’s no fun for anyone.
And because the process is so uncomfortable and difficult, it’s becomes hard for a lot of people to properly manage the disease.
Or, as Google project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz said in the post: “Although some people wear glucose monitors with a glucose sensor embedded under their skin, all people with diabetes must still prick their finger and test drops of blood throughout the day. It’s disruptive, and it’s painful. And as a result, many people with diabetes check their blood glucose less often than they should.”
Physicians and medical researchers have thought about ways to measure glucose through the fluid in the eye for years, but have had trouble figuring out how best to capture and analyze those tears reliably. Some companies, such as EyeSense, have developed their own products to embed sensors in the eye to measure these levels, while other companies such asFreedom Meditech have explored measuring glucose levels through the eye by using light.
But Google, tapping Parviz’s deep knowledge of biotech, has come up with this solution. Parviz — who once led the Google Glass team — and Otis were colleagues at the University of Washington before moving over to Google’s department for developing “moonshot” projects, Google[x]. The company is still in the early days of the smart contact lens project, but said that it is in discussions with the Food and Drug Administration to figure out how to bring the product to market in the future.