While the world has its eyes on Google Glass, the Google [X] lab has been quietly working on smart contact lenses. This wearable technology device is not designed to change the color of one's iris to look more beautiful but it is engineered to measure blood glucose using human tears. If the device proves to be effective and efficient, diabetics can say goodbye to regular needle pricks.
Diabetes is considered as the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. and may cause blindness, limb amputation, and kidney failure among other health problems. It also increases the risk of an individual to have stroke or a heart attack.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 25.8 million people affected by diabetes in the United States in 2011. In 2010, about 50 percent of adults 65 years old or older had prediabetes with 35 percent more of those at least 20 years or older adding to the tally. These numbers translate to about 79 million Americans with prediabetes.
"Over the years, many scientists have investigated various body fluids-such as tears-in the hopes of finding an easier way for people to track their glucose levels. But as you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study. At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics-think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair-might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy," project co-founders Babak Parviz and Brian Otis wrote Thursday on Google's official blog.
"We're now testing a smart contact lens that's built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact 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," Google added.
According to Google, there is still a lot of work to be done to make the blood glucose-measuring smart contact lenses fit for human use. The company decided to come out early into its development to seek out partners who can help further develop the wearable device. Google might integrate a warning system that will light up when the blood sugar of the user is at dangerous levels. It also wants to develop an app that can help the device communicate its readings to users and their doctors.
The smart contact lens for Google will change how mankind deals with diabetes. Of course, there will be questions about comfort using the wearable technology and its affordability when it is rolled out in the future.