Google Partners With Novartis To Make Smart Contact Lenses

The partnership could have huge implications in the development of tiny, invisible computers.

Google's smart contact lenses are one step closer to becoming a reality.

Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced it has agreed to license Google's "smart lens," which was first announced back in January, to help diabetic patients monitor their glucose levels, among other things. Although financials weren't disclosed, the hope is that the partnership will speed up the development of the technology.

In this case, Google's lens is essentially a health tracker, and uses a small glucose sensor along with a wireless chip to transmit information from a wearer's tears. This negates the need for a pinprick, or blood.

Perhaps more interestingly, though, Novartis is also licensing the miniature eye electronics to help treat ocular conditions. As Novartis describes it in a statement:

For people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without glasses, the "smart lens" has the potential to provide accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus on near objects in the form of an accommodative contact lens or intraocular lens as part of the refractive cataract treatment.

It's kind of like an autofocus camera lens that fits onto the eye's surface, which could one day have huge ramifications in the optometry world. Imagine: Instead of having to go in for yearly prescriptions, you can buy one set of smart contact lenses capable of adjusting precisely to your vision needs.

That's not exactly "Google Glass" in contact lens form—although Google is working on that, too. But the alliance with Novartis shows Google is serious about developing platforms for all kinds of wearables, and not necessarily the ones affixed to your wrist or eyebrows.

[Images courtesy of Google]

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  • 30+ million people get to forgo making the choice between stabbing themselves with a needle multiple times daily or having a tube surgically inserted into the body and attached to a device the size of a 90's beeper --- and you think the potential for Google Glass to be installed into people's eyeballs is the more interesting use?

    Check yourself.

  • I hope that Google doesn't develop an undetectable product (such as GoogleGlass contact lenses) that records interactions without all parties being aware of the recording. Such a product would undermine inherent trust between people, discourage candidness and seed suspicion, all of which would fundamentally atrophy our delicate, yet vital personal interactions. Trust and candidness are pillars of a healthy society and are far more critical than efficiency made possible by data technology.

  • Ian Makepeace

    Technology is moving at a frightening pace. I remember when the general availability of the PC was heralded as the new dawn,but innovations such as this blow the mind.