What happens when the world’s leading information and tech resource joins hands with a leading pharmaceutical firm? You get the latest in technology which combines the best of both worlds. This is exactly the case which resulted out of the partnership of Google and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis and gave way to the development of the “Smart Contact Lens”. To be precise, it will be Alcon (Novartis’s eye care division) that would be working in association with Google for coming with this amazing device.
The smart contact lens is designed to monitor the glucose levels in your eye and send the information to your mobile device such as your smartphone or tablet. Yes, this is as much a reality as your smartphones and memory sticks. According to statistics from Diabetes UK, more than 3 million people in the UK have been diagnosed with the condition as of 2013. This is a novel initiative undertaken by both firms to come up with a device that can actually provide a completely pain free method of analysing the glucose levels in your body. While there is no scope for completely eliminating the need for blood tests, but this will give a near accurate result and it would also relief you from frequently puncturing yourself to get that vital drop of blood required for testing blood glucose levels.
Google Co-founder Sergey Brin said: “Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people. We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”
This announcement is just one of the many to follow with respect to the futuristic endeavours that Google has undertaken in the previous year alone which includes amazing devices such as the Google Glass. In terms of the functionality of the smart lenses, Novartis has released an official statement which explained that their “focus would be on two areas of the technology, to help diabetic patients manage their condition, but also to offer some vision correction to those who are short-sighted.
A Novartis spokesperson also stated that “For people living with presbyopia who can no longer read without 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 concept for this amazing device was shared in January which explains that a series of tiny sensors and microchips are integrated onto the lens which measure, read and process the glucose levels in your tears. The credit really goes to the Google X lab where the staff are encouraged to come up with ideas that are over the top yet achievable. After all, Google does like to test its limits with such challenges!
But do not start expecting a commercial product soon. Novartis stressed upon the fact that there were no guarantees that a commercial product for the smart lens would be launched. The reason behind this statement is that a lot of work still remains to be accomplished by both partners. Since the lens comes in direct contact with the eye, the use of sensors and other circuitry needs to be made fool-proof before it is released on a commercial basis. There is also the need for integrating the lens with the mobile devices so that the information may be received by the device from the smart lens.
Novartis’ CEO Joe Jimenez said, “The promise here is the Holy Grail of vision care, to be able to replicate the natural functioning of the eye. Think about a contact lens that could help the eye autofocus on that newspaper and then when you look up it would autofocus in the distance. This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye.”
It seems that in the coming years, we would see more of the “embedded technology” designs that are directly integrated in our bodies to provide better metrics. But experts believe that in the next few decades, we could be moving into the “replacement phase” where we would be able to replace our perfectly operational parts with something that is even better. Seems sci-fi, well sci-fi just got real!
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