Google isn't afraid of pushing the envelope on technologies that seem straight out of science fiction. The company's "smart contact lenses" project fits that bill to a tee.
What's most intriguing about this natural extension of the wearable tech revolution, which seems to be gaining more steam as the months tick by, is that the Internet giant isn't just putting a new spin on the general-purpose wearable computer known as Google Glass.
Instead, the smart contact lenses being developed by Brian Otis and Babak Parviz have a very specific, perhaps even noble purpose. These lenses contain a "tiny wireless chip" and sensors that measure the glucose level in tears to calculate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, Google has claimed.
"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," the project leaders wrote in a blog 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."
The upshot is that, if successful, these smart contact lenses could help those with diabetes avoid the painful finger pricking they endure daily to measure their glucose levels. The lenses themselves are kitted out with "chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair," allowing for unobstructed vision and perhaps, a less painful way to manage diabetes.
The news may help to turn back a tide of British cynicism on wearable technology, after a recent study found that two thirds of Brits would spurn devices like smartwatches and Google glass.