Google Partners With Novartis To Make Smart Contact Lenses

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

Google Partners With Novartis To Make Smart Contact Lenses
[Images courtesy of Google]

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.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.