Smart Contact Lenses: Eyewear of the Future

Listen up, Audience, because in about five years there will be a big change to corrective contact lenses. With Google and Novartis teaming up to make these awesome new lenses that could change the eyewear market for the better, I can only imagine how they might change from the projected outcome now to when they are available to purchase in five years.

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What is this smart lens I’m talking about? It’s this awesome contact that looks almost exactly like every other contact, except for the wiring inlaid in it. This wiring is actually a set of sensors that can monitor different aspects of you: for instance, the glucose levels in a diabetic. It’s speculated that this could be broadened to apply to many different eyesight problems, including presbyopia—a condition of the eyes that affects people generally around age 40 when they have trouble focusing on objects nearby. Usually this is earmarked by people wearing bifocals, the kind of glasses that have two different lenses to see through for each eye. So how does it fix that, you ask? It also has a camera in the lens to adjust the focus as you move your eye to look at different objects.

How does the contact lens work, exactly? The lens has the camera, the sensors and a control circuit as little boxes and circles one can see on the contact itself. The camera works just like a digital camera with the focusing aspect, only very, very tiny. As far as the miniature sensors tracking the glucose levels, there is a miniscule antenna which will read the levels from the tears you produce. There is talk of the levels either being wirelessly transmitted to a mobile app for the diabetic to see, or LED lights in the actual contacts to light up to indicate the levels.

The only possible problem is that of powering these circuits and sensors at the moment. There is talk of a wireless transmitter to send power to the contacts, but there isn’t much information available for that topic at the moment.

If you’re worried about looking like some kind of android or someone from the future, you apparently won’t have to worry. The wiring and sensors, camera and control circuits can be matched to the color of your iris. However, if you choose to not have it color matched it will look like tiny flecks of glitter in your eye—I think that would look pretty cool!

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So why are they not out now? What’s pictured above is just a prototype, which was first seen in a rabbit’s eye in 2011. The contacts are far from being as comfortable as our current eyewear, so refining and adding in additional technologies will likely take a while. I know it’s hard to be patient, but it will be worth it.

Of course, you may be wondering if this contact will be limited to just those functions, if it has a wireless transmitter in it. Right now there’s no indication from either Google X or Novartis about a go ahead to make online streaming available through the camera in the contact or any other terminator-like possibility, but boy do they talk about it in the media! It’s a wonderful, almost impossible to think about about coming true, speculation. I do hope the two companies continue forward with their plans and come out with this beneficial technological advancement.

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