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Google and Novartis sign deal for smart contact lenses

Google X smart contact lens concept

Swiss firm signs up to turn Google X smart conctact lens concept into reality

Google has signed a deal with Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to license the smart contact lens technology first revealed by the Google X Lab team earlier this year. The agreement will see multiple prototypes turned into functioning consumer products for monitoring and treating a variety of ailments, including diabetes and presbyopia.

Novartis subsidiary Alcon will now begin developing the concept. The first prototype aims to help diabetic patients continously monitor their glucose levels, using non-invasive sensors that measure the amount of glucose in tear fluid before sending the readings wirelessly to a paired smartphone. 

Currently, the concept device consists of a wireless chip and a miniaturised glocuse sensor; a small pinhole in the lens lets tear fluid seep into the sensor. All the electronics are embedded between two soft lens layers, and lie outside of both the pupil and iris so there can be no damage done to the eye. A wireless antenna inside the contact is thinner than a strand of human hair, and draws power from the paired device. It communicates using RFID wireless technology.

Although expected to take more development time, the second concept would help anyone living with presbyopia and can no longer read without glasses. The smart lens could provide vision correction to help restore the eye’s natural autofocus on near objects.

“Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people,” Google co-founder Sergei Brin said of the deal. “We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”

X Lab, Google’s Mountain View-based skunkworks, was previously responsible for the concept that became Google Glass. It is now working on driverless car technology and a way to deliver wireless internet across the globe using a network of balloons flying the stratosphere.

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