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Will Google's Smart Contact Lenses Change Life As We Know It?

Nano-pixels smaller than the width of a hair

Molly Holt
Will Google's Smart Contact Lenses Change Life As We Know It?© 2017 Novartis

Not content with Google Glass’s coverage of human eye technology, Google plans to next target the actual eyeball.

A super small wireless chip and sensors have been squished between two layers of “biocompatible” contact lens material, in order to create a contact lens that can improve eye care and help manage diseases and conditions. Today, Google X (the secret arm of the company) confirmed that it has licensed its newest wearable to healthcare specialist Novartis, whose eye care division Alcon will take part of the actual “lens”, while Google takes control of the tiny low-power electronics and fabrication. The “non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics” will be used to collect data, which could help diabetic patients and farsighted people. Diabetics for example, could keep track of their glucose levels through the chip measuring their tear’s sugar levels, which would then send data back to their smartphone. The chip could also restore clear vision by assisting wearers’ natural focus on near objects.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin notes Google’s dreams “to use the latest technology in the miniaturization of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions” and that “[they] are excited to work with Novartis to make this dream come true”. But, the dream may be getting even bigger, as today scientists at Oxford University accidentally discovered a new display formula whose human hair size films could set a new benchmark for technology.

The nano-pixels are a tiny sandwich of phase change material and transparent electrodes, which change colour when hit with even the tiniest jolt of current. Each stack can draw a tiny image which, smaller than a single strand of hair, could be “incorporated into very thin flexible materials”... such as Google’s smart contact lenses maybe? The discovery marks a possible new era of high definition, embeddable and low power displays. Other potentials could include bendy phone screens, windshields and artificial retinas. Yep, an actual real-life retina display. I guess they better start preparing for Apple to take them to court.

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