Google’s Smart Contact Lens Might Actually Happen

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
July 16 2014 5:32 PM

Google’s Smart Contact Lens Might Actually Happen

contact
The smart contact might become more than a concept.

Photo from Google.

When Google [x]—the company’s crazy-research arm—announced a smart contact lens in January it sounded exactly like the type of awesome idea that comes out of an R&D department and then ... never goes anywhere. But this time might be different! Google and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis announced Wednesday that they are collaborating to actually develop the lens.

Novartis is licensing the lens through its ophthalmology subsidiary Alcon. The smart contact uses teeny sensors to analyze a wearer’s tears as a way of monitoring blood glucose levels, and then the data is wirelessly transmitted to a mobile device to assist diabetes patients. In a press release, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said, “Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people.”

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In addition to data tracking for diabetes patients, Novartis also hopes to develop the contact lens so that it can perform “accommodative vision correction” over time, meaning the lens could be used to restore people’s natural autofocus ability. Google did say in January that it would be looking for manufacturing partners, and now the company is actually following through. Bionic eyes, here we come.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is a staff writer and the lead blogger for Future Tense.

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