Jan 22, 2014 03:20 PM EST
Google X has announced a new smart eyewear initiative, but it’s probably not what you think. The company’s smart glasses, Google Glass, are slated to debut later this year, but Mountain View is already at work on a technology it calls smart contact lenses.
The Google smart contact lens isn’t another tool to check your Facebook and Twitter feed—rather, it’s intended for diabetics to measure their glucose levels.
“Many people I’ve talked to say managing their diabetes is like having a part-time job. Glucose levels change frequently with normal activity like exercising or eating or even sweating. Sudden spikes or precipitous drops are dangerous and not uncommon, requiring round-the-clock monitoring,” wrote Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, the project’s co-founders in a Google Blog 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.”
Google says it has built a prototype and is already in talks with the Food and Drug Administration about the smart contact lens, but it will still be awhile before the new technology becomes available. Unlike Glass, the company does not intend to develop the smart contact lens entirely in-house. It says it is looking for partners to work on both hardware and software for the new product.
According to the company, scientists have long been looking for alternative methods for measuring glucose and while tears are a promising possibility, there isn’t currently an easy way to sample them. Google hopes to change this with the smart contact lens.
“Over the years, many scientists have investigated various body fluids—such as tears—in the hopes of finding an easier way for people to track their glucose levels. But as you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study. At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics—think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy,” the co-founders said.
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