Google’s “smart” contact lenses

Google is getting into the contact lens business. But, because it’s Google, they aren’t creating just any contact lenses.

Google announced this week on its blog that it’s testing a “smart” contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears. The lenses will help people with diabetes to better manage their disease.

“At Google, 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,” according to the blog.

Google smart lens

Google smart lens

So they came up with smart lenses.

The contact lenses will use a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material, according to the Google blog.

They’re also investigating whether the lenses could also serve as an early warning for the wearer, so they’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds.

The American Diabetes Association estimates nearly 26 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes — more than 8 percent of the population.

People with diabetes must test their blood-sugar levels throughout the day by pricking their fingers and testing drops of blood.

The folks at Google hope their smart lenses will make monitoring the disease less disruptive.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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