What If Google Glass Came In The Form Of A Contact Lens?

Google filed a patent application for a Glass-like contact lens embedded with tiny cameras. The proposed smart contact lens could integrate a display that shows content from a web browser or application.

What If Google Glass Came In The Form Of A Contact Lens?
[Image: Flickr user n4i]

Imagine if Google Glass were invisible.


One of the major complaints against Google’s futuristic heads-up display is that it’s so obvious–even with redesigned specs. It appears the search giant already anticipated this critique, filing a patent application back in October 2012 that proposes embedding a contact lens with a display and tiny cameras.

The application, published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week, highlights a wearable device capable of taking photos, storing them, and sending data to a remote device via a wireless connection. In addition, an integrated display can show information from the web and even guide blind people in their day-to-day lives.

The smart contact lens could work with a remote device worn by the user, such as headphones, Google Glass, hats, or clothing. It’s possible the lens could also communicate with other electronic devices, like smartphones, cameras, laptops, tablets, TV sets, game consoles, or stereo systems. The application notes people could snap photos with the contact lens on a time interval, command from a remote device, or by blinking.

The lens is also capable of processing image data, including metadata related to objects. That means the smart contact lens, in theory, could guide a blind person crossing the street, detecting when one is approaching an intersection as well as cars in motion. It would then communicate with a remote device to let the wearer know via audio if it is safe to cross the street. To aid people with sight, the smart lens could flash LEDs to warn of oncoming cars when a person approaches an intersection.

Earlier this year, the Mountain View, Calif. company’s experimental division Google X showed off a smart contact lens prototype capable of monitoring the glucose levels of diabetes patients, warning them when their sugar levels dropped.

About the author

Based in San Francisco, Alice Truong is Fast Company's West Coast correspondent. She previously reported in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and most recently Hong Kong, where she (left her heart and) worked as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.