Google & Novartis developing "smart" contact lens that will monitor glucose levels

Credit: Source: Novartis

One of the best things about being as old as dirt, like I am, is being able to appreciate the wonders of modern technology. Sometimes that means trivial stuff, like looking up an actress on IMDB to remind yourself where you've seen her before. Before the Internet and online services it would've been almost impossible to get this information without doing extensive research.

Other times it's just really cool tech like the Scio pocket spectrometer that I wrote about back in April. In a lot of ways it's pretty similar to a Star Trek tricorder! I backed the project and can't wait to have my Scio even though I have no idea what I'll actually do with it. It's just so cool!

And then there's the more serious side to advancing technology, and it's one of those products I want to talk about today. Yesterday Google and pharmaceutical firm Novartis announced a partnership. Their first product is intended to be a 'smart' contact lens that can detect glucose levels in the tears of its wearer and transmit that data to a smartphone. No longer would diabetics have to test themselves; the combination of contact lens and app would keep them aware of their glucose levels in real time.

Just imagine the quality of life issues that could mean for anyone with diabetes. It seems to me it would be literally life-changing tech. (I'd love for someone who is living with diabetes to comment on this post and share his or her feelings on what something like this lens would mean to them.)

A second project would be a contact lens that corrects presbyopia, an inability to focus on near objects that many of us older folk are all too familiar with (I have drug-store reading glasses scattered all over the house at this point). According to a post at the LA Times Google has filed a patent "that describes tiny cameras capable of fitting within the contact lens" though it isn't clear if this is how the presbyopia-correcting lens will work. Frankly I don't care how it works; I just want it to work!

Novartis CEO Jeff Jimenez told Ars Technica "he would be 'disappointed' if the smart contact was not ready for commercialization within five years."

We live in amazing times.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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