Well, we weren't expecting this one. Meet the Google contact lens, introduced by Google Friday in a company blog post. This is no ordinary contact lens: It intends to measure the glucose levels of diabetic people using their own tears, saving millions of diabetics the pain of pricking their fingers every day. The contact lens, which is in early stages at the super-secret Google X lab, would continuously monitor glucose levels by using miniaturized technology.
According to the blog post, diabetes affects one in 19 people worldwide. Diabetics constantly have to worry about keeping their blood-sugar levels manageable, and sometimes test themselves less than they should, just because it's such a disruptive process. If you're diabetic, you can prick your finger and test your glucose levels using a test strip, or have a thick needle placed in your stomach to monitor your glucose. Both are painful.
Google explained that the lens would measure glucose levels using a tiny wireless chip and mini-sensor, sandwiched between soft lens material.
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.
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.
There are still a lot of questions with this technology, and Google says it would take at least five years to roll out. For example, what happens if you produce more tears than usual on a certain day — say, if you've just broken up with a boyfriend and are watching A Walk to Remember for the thousandth time? Would the tear-monitoring system go into overdrive?
There are probably a ton of kinks to work out, but the technology is promising — and might save diabetics a whole lot of stress.
This is far from the first time that companies have come up with alternative testing processes for diabetics, including a wristwatch and different kinds of lenses. And the $16 billion glucose-monitoring device market is probably not too happy about Google diving into their territory, especially with a product this potentially lucrative.
Fingers crossed the NSA won't be able to use Google to collect information through our eyes...