Google Presents Solar Powered Smart Contact Lens

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The person who first held that tiny piece of wonder, called a contact lens, on a finger, and cautiously put it on his/her eyeball could probably never have thought that it could transform into a smart wearable in future, hosting a range of crazy functionalities surrounding the eyeball, which is undoubtedly the source of bodily fluids.

Last week, Google was awarded a patent for a solar-powered contact lens that is capable of sensing a wide variety of information, including biological data about the wearer, wearer’s environmental information, barcode information, and communicating the information with computers and other devices.

The tech giant brought into light its smart contact lens project last year, and announced that it was working on a smart contact lens with a small sensor chip that can measure glucose level’s in the tears of the wearer and flash a warning light on detecting any dangerous spikes or drops that could lead to alarming conditions of diabetes. Google had earlier confirmed testing a prototype of contact lenses that measured blood sugar through tears at fixed time intervals. This newly filed patent, which has the potential of taking Google’s idea of a smart contact lens one step ahead, reveals further potential wonders of the smart lens.

According to the patent, the contact lens can host sensors that can detect and provide insights about a wide range of biological data, including internal body temperature, urea level, or blood-alcohol content. (No brownie points for guessing that this might help combat drink driving!)The sensors could also collect data about the wearer’s environment including pollutants or allergens like grass or tree pollen, dust mite excretions, and other chemical and microbiological hazards.  This can help in preventing the spread of infectious diseases, or alert the user to seek urgent medical attention (or rush home, from work) before a subsequent illness condition becomes more severe.

The feature packed smart contact lens could also be used to verify the wearer’s identity. “Retinal analysis of a user can be performed and an optical signal transmitted in response to an authentication request,” the patent states. Also, it can be a way to authenticate payments as a biometric. Instead of a fingerprint, it can scan eye topography and verify transactions in a blink.

And just when you were thinking “That’s quite something for a tiny soft eyeworn!”, the invention disclosure has more to offer. What can make the smart contact lens a must-have for shopaholics is its ability to read information in price tags and barcodes. It may capture and send information to a mobile device about a product you’re looking at and display, for instance, the best prices!

Image source: Patent US 9158133

Image source: Patent US 9158133

The patent reveals that photo detector sensors and solar cells on the contact lens would harvest light to constantly power the device. The patent proposes using pulses of light invisible to the human eye which another device can read. Through photodectors installed, they can receive data or special instructions, too. This ability can play a key role in many applications. For example, if a display item has an embedded LED light pulsing a signal at a specific frequency, the contact lens can pick it up and forward this detection to a mobile device. This can mean targeted campaigns and even know how long a person is staring at a specific thing.

But what makes this invention really interesting, and commercializing it a real challenge, is to manufacture solar cells flexible and small enough to fit in and power a small contact lens.

Image sources: &

Image sources: &

Some technocrats would love to see Google implement Google Glass-like features into the smart lenses for things like taking photos through blink recognition, or triggering an image search of what the wearer is looking at. Of course, as with most patents, there’s no guarantee that such a contact lens will become a reality anytime in the near future. However, given that Google has given a peek that it is working on similar technology, it is quite expected that the tech industry keeps its eyeballs ready for the visionary smart contact lens rolled out with these advantageous features.

(Featured image source:

Subhasri Das
Subhasri Das

Subhasri is a technocrat who enjoys reading between the lines of patents to understand their hidden value.

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