In Brief

Google Glass contact lenses? Tech firm patents lens camera

Google's new smart lens could place wearable computers onto the surface of the eye

Google Glass

GOOGLE has patented a new camera that fits inside a contact lens, raising the prospect that Glass computer system could be shrunk to fit on the surface of a user's eye.

According to PatentBolt, the device will allow users to capture video from the contact lens without obstructing their own field of vision. This could see the functions of Google's Glass head-mounted computer system being integrated into a significantly less obtrusive device that sits above the iris.

Darrell Etherington, writing for TechCrunch, says that the lens could present a range of medical benefits including "vision augmentation for people with all types of ocular health". PatentBolt suggests that the device could help blind users become aware of their surroundings. For example, users could be notified by sensors within the contact lens on when it is safe to cross roads.

Google says that the system will also be able to detect faces, helping the blind to recognise people they know. Users will control the device by blinking, and the lens will be able to communicate to a smartphone or other peripheral device wirelessly.

Google is also developing a contact lens to help diabetics monitor their glucose levels by taking readings from moisture in users' eyes (pictured above). In a blog post announcing the research, the project's co-founders, Brian Otis and Babak Parviz said: "We're now testing a smart contact lens that's built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material".

Etherington notes that a patent for the camera-enabled lens does not necessarily indicate that a device will come to market. "Big tech companies patent stuff all the time, and only a fraction of that ever makes it to shipping products," he says. "Still, as an assistive device, and an alternative to other, more obvious gadgets and intrusive tech like hearing aids or cochlear implants, this could be a tech that has legs in the near future". 

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