It’s an exciting time for wearable eye technology. A field that has long seemed to be solidly in the realm of science fiction is aggressively migrating into reality.
Google’s Wearable Eye Technology
Initially, it seemed that Google Glass might be the first eye wearable to break into the mainstream, bringing heads-up displays with in-eye video and communication into everyday use. However, despite a wide range of apps with enormous promise, public enthusiasm for Glass never took off.
According to TechCrunch, Google might actually hit it bigger with a niche medical product, despite the drastically smaller prospective market: a blood glucose-sensing contact lens. The product would be used by diabetics to replace the periodic finger prick or uncomfortable constant-monitoring devices that require leaving equipment under the skin. The lens is under development by Google[x], the company’s highly secretive research arm, which engages in ambitious long-shot projects with the potential for enormous impact.
In addition to helping diabetics maintain healthy blood sugar, Google’s lens could also be used for research purposes, as Google intends to do with the Baseline Study. This study will gather vast quantities of information in an attempt to understand a healthy human body more fully for medical applications, according to the MIT Technology Review. Subjects will provide tissue samples, bodily fluids, and parental genetic information, then they will be monitored by sensors like the glucometer lens while they go about their daily lives.
The lens is being developed in a collaboration with Novartis, notes TechCrunch; the team is also working on other smart contact lenses, including one that could change your eyes’ focus automatically.
Pressure-Sensing Lens for Glaucoma
The Google lens is not the first physiological sensing eye technology: several years ago, Sensimed developed a contact lens that monitors the shape of the eye to detect increased intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve and cause blindness if left untreated. For many glaucoma patients, damage is caused by increased pressure from fluid buildup in the eye. Sensimed’s Triggerfish lens helps these glaucoma patients track their intraocular pressure to aid in treatment and monitor their eye health.
Potential Future Products
These exciting developments are likely just the beginning of a trend of incorporating health, communication, and entertainment features into wearable eye technology. Thomas Quinn, the head of the contact lens section of American Optometric Association, expressed great hope for the future of medical contact lenses in an interview with the MIT Technology Review. Contacts could also be used, he believes, to monitor cancer and dispense drugs.
While these possibilities may still be years away from the consumer market, the attention from major companies like Google and Novartis is a good indicator that “smart” eye wearables may have a big future.
For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.
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