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Google Contact Lens

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Google Contact Lens is a smart contact lens project announced by Google on 16 January 2014. The project aims to assist people with diabetes by constantly measuring the glucose levels in their tears. The project is being carried out by the life sciences division of Google X and it is currently being tested using prototypes.

Design Edit

The lens consists of a wireless chip and a miniaturized glucose sensor. A tiny pinhole in the lens allows for tear fluid to seep into the sensor to measure blood sugar levels. Both of the sensors are embedded between two soft layers of lens material. The electronics lie outside of both the pupil and the iris so there is no damage to the eye. There is a wireless antenna inside of the contact that is thinner than a human’s hair, which will act as a controller to communicate information to the wireless device. The antenna will gather, read, and analyze data. Power will be drawn from the device which will communicate data via the wireless technology RFID. Plans to add small LED lights that could warn the wearer by lighting up when the glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds have been mentioned to be under consideration. Challenges presented by such a technology are that the LED lights contain the toxic metal arsenic. The performance of the contact lenses in windy environments and teary eyes is unknown.

The prototypes being tested can generate a reading once per second.

Announcement Edit

On 16 January 2014 Google announced that, for the past 18 months, they had been working on a contact lens that could help people with diabetes by making it continually check their glucose levels. The idea was originally funded by the National Science Foundation and was first brought to Microsoft. The product was created by Brian Otis and Babak Parviz who were both members of the electrical engineering faculty at the University of Washington prior to working in Google’s secret lab, Google[x]. Google noted in their official announcement that scientists have long looked into how certain body fluids can help track glucose levels easier, but as tears are hard to collect and study, using them was never really an option. They also mentioned that the project is currently being discussed with the FDA while still noting that there is a lot more work left to do before the product can be released for general usage, which is said to happen in five years at best, and that they are looking for partners who would use the technology for the lens by developing apps that would make the measurements available to the wearers and their respective doctors. The partners would also be expected to use this research and technology to develop advanced medical and vision devices for future generations.

Response Edit

Palo Alto Medical Foundation endocrinologist Dr. Larry Levin commented on how remarkable and important it is that Google is getting into the medical field, and that he is very excited to be able to offer his patients a pain-free alternative to either pricking their fingers or using a continuous glucose monitor. Research has proven that the contact lens method is less painful and time consuming for diabetics than the traditional finger pricking. Further comments by others include the criticism of tears not containing the same amount of measurable glucose as blood.

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