Google's Smart Contacts One Step Closer to Reality

Switzerland-based Novartis announced on Tuesday that its eye care division Alcon will license Google's "smart lens" technology for "ocular medical uses."

The agreement was actually made with the Google X division, which revealed the technology back in mid-January. At the time, the contact lens consisted of a tiny wireless chip and a miniaturized glucose sensor that were embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. Thanks to this technology, the lens could read the wearer's glucose level by examining tears.

"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," said project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz at the time.

Now Google X and Alcon are teaming up to develop a smart lens that will address other ocular conditions, including helping people with presbyopia who cannot read without a pair of reading glasses.

"The 'smart lens' has the potential to provide accommodative vision correction to help restore the eye's natural autofocus on near objects in the form of an accommodative contact lens or intraocular lens as part of the refractive cataract treatment,” the press release stated.

The announcement said that Google’s expertise with miniaturized electronics, low power chip design and microfabrication will be married with Alcon’s knowledge of "physiology and visual performance of the eye, clinical development and evaluation, as well as commercialization of contact and intraocular lenses." Alcon is using the agreement to accelerate its product innovation.

A release date and pricing is unknown.

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