Google Tests a Smart Contact Lens for Diabetes Patients

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Google announced last week that it is developing a smart contact lens that can monitor glucose levels in the tears of diabetes patients.

In a Jan. 16 post on the Google blog, project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz said they are testing a smart contact lens prototype that uses a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. The prototype can generate a reading once per second, and could incorporate very small LED lights to warn the wearer if their glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.

“We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second. We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds,” Otis and Parviz said in the post. “It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype. We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.”

Otis and Parvis also said that although they are discussing the technology with the FDA, there is still a lot more work to do to before it is usable.

“We’re not going to do this alone; we plan to look for partners who are experts in bringing products like this to market,” they said. “These partners will use our technology for a smart contact lens and develop apps that would make the measurements available to the wearer and their doctor. We’ve always said that we’d seek out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange, and at a time when the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is declaring that the world is ‘losing the battle’ against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot.”

Parvis’s involvement with smart contact lenses dates back several years, beginning with his work at the University of Washington. He also leads the development team for Google Glass.