Google reveals electronic contact lens with an eye to help diabetics get away from needle stick testing methods widely used today. Hot on the heels of the release of the first commercial wearable computer Google Glass, this newest piece of wearable tech has a more focused aim than general use computing on the go. Google developers spent years soldering hair thin wire by hand in order to get the electronics needed for a glucose sensor, wireless transmitter and power receiver small enough to be embedded in a contact lens. Google and 382 million diabetics world-wide are hopeful that the device will be able to accurately and reliably transmit blood glucose levels based on the wearers tears to a hand-held device which would be used to administer the actual insulin. Diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin, a peptide hormone that allows cells in major organs to absorb glucose from the blood. The amount of insulin in the blood dictates when the body chooses to burn sugar or fat for energy. Without insulin the bodies of diabetes sufferers are unable to remove excess glucose from the blood, which can be toxic in highly concentrated amounts.
Although the lens is still in development, Google has managed to make a working prototype based on research that has been going on for over 11 years with funding from several institutes, including the National Science Foundation and Microsoft. The recent success is attributed to Googles X-Lab, home of several moon-shot projects including wireless internet balloons, life extension research, and self-driving cars. Google reveals electronic contact lens with an eye to help diabetics after over a decade of strenuous work to miniaturize the components. The lens includes the worlds smallest glucose monitor, a radio-wave powered energy receiver, and a hairs-breadth antenna that runs around the outside edge of the lens. The receiver in the lens transforms latent radiant electromagnetic energy into the very small amount of electricity needed to power the lens glucose monitoring and result transmitting components. The antenna is responsible sending the data to a hand-held device that gives the glucose reading to the user, who then decides to administer the insulin as needed.
At first glance the lens looks fairly common, until the glittering electronic chips and nearly invisible wires catch the light. The device is designed to take a glucose reading through the patients tears and transmit the data to a receiver once every second. The simplicity of the device and ability to fore-go drawing blood to test blood sugar make it an attractive option to diabetics. In the past severe cases had to be treated with as many as fifteen needle sticks and insulin injections a day. Insulin pumps have become more common recently but this option require those who choose it to live with a large needle embedded in their stomachs. Google reveals electronic contact lens with an eye to help diabetics at a time when semi-conductor technology has allowed us to shrink desktop computers into hand-held devices, and the same technology has been used in this device.
By Daniel O`Brien