There are few things more important than our health and the medical advances that maintain us. In the last thirty years, the role of technology in medicine has been at the helm of health care breakthroughs. The tech giant Google unveiled plans in early 2014 to address the questionHow can we use technology to create a true picture of human health? These plans are quickly coming to fruition, and may be market-ready as early as mid-2017. At the forefront of their biological sciences program is a contact lens prototype, which Google patented in early 2015.
Google Eyes intends to be the world’s first smart contact lens, with virtually unlimited potential. When Google partnered with Novartis, they hoped to create a contact lens able to measure glucose levels through analytes in the subject’s eye. A tiny microchip, powered by solar energy, would transmit information from the glucometer on the lens to a computer or cell phone app. This lens would be a tremendous innovation for the thirty million diabetics in the United States alone.
While appealing to the medical needs of diabetics, Google’s patent plans revealed a more widespread application for the lenses, including reading body temperature, blood-alcohol levels and also sensing allergens. The ability of the lens to detect certain analytes in the tears and mucus membranes of the eye also has potential to provide doctors with information on bacterial and viral infections. The chip could detect changes in vision, including early detection of diseases such as macular degeneration and glaucoma.
The partnership with Novartis began in 2014 with a market-ready product goal of 2019. As we approach the third year of the partnership, Google Eyes seems to be well ahead of schedule, with plans for prototype testing to begin in 2016. Google’s bio-sciences program, known as Verily, is leading the charge for medical technology innovation, and keeping Google stock on the must-have list.