Google’s futuristic smart lenses are not just a research project.
Google and Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant Novartis announced a partnership to bring smart contact lenses to market, with an initial focus on patients suffering from diabetes and nearsightedness.
A product of the secretive Google X research labs, smart contact lenses were revealed as one of Google’s famed moonshots back in January. At the time, Google said it would be working with healthcare partners in order to obtain regulatory approvals and bring its smart lenses to market.
Novartis, through its eye care division Alcon, will contribute “expertise in physiology and visual performance of the eye, clinical development and evaluation, as well as commercialization of contact and intraocular lenses.”
The first two focus areas for the project will be developing a contact lens that can measure glucose levels from the lacrimal fluid on the eye in the benefit of diabetes patients, and a contact lens that can 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.”
Smart lenses, which incorporate tiny sensors, chips, and antennas between layers of clear material, get their power wirelessly and communicate wirelessly with a mobile device.
“Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people,” said Google’s Sergey Brin. “We are very excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true.”
Google and Novartis have not revealed a timeline for bringing smart lenses to market, and the official press release suggests this is just a “first step for Novartis to evolve technology to manage human diseases and conditions.”
Incidentally or not, the father of the project, Babak Parviz, recently announced he would be leaving Google for a stint at Amazon. Parviz had worked on the smart lens concept for years and collaborated with Microsoft Research before joining Google.