Google is testing prototypes of a smart contact lens for people with diabetes. Using micro sensors and circuitry built into the soft shell, the smart lenses measure glucose levels in the tears of the wearer.
The US web giant made the announcement in its blog on Thursday (January 16), with project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz stating that they are in preliminary talks with the US regulatory body for medicines (the Federal Drugs Administration) to take the prototype further.
The developers have plans to expand the project and say that incorporating an LED could be used to provide an early warning system if glucose concentrations stray beyond healthy levels.
Currently, the standard daily practice for those living with the condition involves pricking the skin to measure sugar levels in the blood, but the smart lenses could provide a less invasive method.
The technology could potentially be combined with a smartphone app to monitor the wearer’s glucose levels, and potentially remind them of meal times or alerting them to high or low levels.
An estimated 3 million people in the UK are thought to have diabetes, with the more common type 2 form accounting for around 90%. It is expected to become more prevalent in the UK, and the World Health Organization predicts that it will become the seventh leading cause of death globally by 2030.
In a statement on the Diabetes UK website, Simon O’Neil, director of health intelligence, said: “...we welcome any investment in new technology that might one day have the potential to make this easier for people, or to offer them choice.”
There are currently no details of timelines or how much the smart lenses might cost.