Friday, January 17, 2014, 08:18 am PT (11:18 am ET)
Google's smart contact lens tracks glucose levels for diabeticsGoogle this week announced it has been working on a wearable device of a different kind than usual — a smart contact lens that could measure glucose levels from the moisture on a user's eyeball.
The search giant revealed the previously unknown project in a post to its official blog, which has been under development at the skunkworks-like "Google X" lab for experimental projects. The goal, project co-founder Brian Otis and Babak Parviz explained, is to make it easier for people with diabetes to track their glucose levels.
Scientists have found ways to measure glucose through tears, but obviously collecting such bodily fluids can be difficult. That's where the concept for a wearable smart contact lens aims to be a potential solution.
Google's smart lens prototype includes a wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor to get readings from the user's tears.
Google's device would include a "tiny wireless chip and a miniaturized glucose sensor" embedded between two thin contact lens layers which could be worn on the user's eye. The company's prototypes can reportedly generate one reading per second.
The company is even looking into integrating small LED lights on the lens that could serve as an early warning indicator for the wearer. If glucose levels were to go above or below certain thresholds, those embedded lights could alert the user to prevent a serious health risk.
"It's still early days for this technology, but we've completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype," Otis and Parviz explained. "We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease."
Google's project is said to be so far along that the company has even had discussion with the FDA. However, it's not expected to be available to average consumers anytime soon, with the company explaining that "there's a lot more work to do."
The smart contact lens concept from Google is one of the more advanced wearable device concepts seen yet as the trend continues to grow. Wearable devices were the highlight of this year's Consumer Electronics Show, with companies introducing watches, headsets and even rings embedded with electronic devices.
Google, of course, has made waves with its own wearable "Glass," which is currently only available to developers. That product is a head-mounted display that can allow users to view information hands-free.
Multiple rumors have suggested Apple is considering entering the wearable device market, with the most common references to a wrist-worn product that could track health data and provide users with easily glanceable information. Further driving those rumors is the fact that Apple itself has filed for ownership of the "iWatch" moniker in Japan, Russia, Mexico, and Taiwan.
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