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Google Medicine Technology

Google Announces Smart Contact Lens Project For Diabetics 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the start-educating-your-contact-lenses-today dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has announced on its official blog that it's working on a new way for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar: a 'smart' contact lens. Diabetes is a difficult condition to treat because blood sugar levels vary widely by a person's activity level and food intake. It's also hard to monitor without painful and intrusive measurements — people can feel normal at dangerously high blood sugar levels, while extremely low levels can impair their ability to seek treatment. Google says, 'Over the years, many scientists have investigated various body fluids—such as tears—in the hopes of finding an easier way for people to track their glucose levels. But as you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study. At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics—think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy. 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. We're testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second.' They're talking with the FDA and bringing in experts to help them figure out the best way to do it."
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Google Announces Smart Contact Lens Project For Diabetics

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:54AM (#45985167)
    I'm sure version 1.0 will be riddled with inaccurate readings, questionable standards, and dubious privacy controls; at the very least, I shiver to think how they'll monetize ads in this case.

    But hopefully this will spur thinking along these lines and in a handful of years we'll have something that's useful and doesn't blatantly throw ethics out the window?
    • by CreatureComfort (741652) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:23AM (#45985485)
      Version 3.0 will still be in Beta, then before they get to 4.0 they'll cancel the project leaving millions without a vital tool they've come to depend on.

      Excuses will be made that "Diabetics are only a small fraction of the total Google user base, so we just couldn't justify keeping those resources tied up on something we couldn't monetize with AdWords."
      • by mcgrew (92797) * on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:04PM (#45988741) Homepage Journal

        Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"

        Guys, these are medical devices. They won't be able to sell them in the US without FDA approval and in other countries with their governments' medical regulatory agencies' approval. And with these, unlike gMail or search, you are the customer, not the product.

        For those of you who missed the significance of the first sentence, google it (although you shouldn't have to, you should already know).

        • by CreatureComfort (741652) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:02PM (#45989627)
          So you are saying that, somehow, the FDA would force Google to keep selling the product? And that the FDA won't ever allow a useful product to be discontinued by it's manufacturer due to lack of desired profitability? Really?

          Also, these will be designed to transmit the collected data, undoubtedly to a proprietary smartphone app (available for both iPhone and Android), which couldn't possibly send that data to Google for their marketing and tracking purchases?

          Hmmm...blood sugar a little low? Suddenly all your adwords beside your google searches are for candy bars. Email "offers" start showing up at the top of your gmail inbox, etc. ad naseam.

          And, as I mentioned in my first post, if it turns out not to be as profitable as Google desires, away it will go.
          • by mcgrew (92797) * on Saturday January 18, 2014 @10:29AM (#45998373) Homepage Journal

            So you are saying that, somehow, the FDA would force Google to keep selling the product?

            Of course not. Whoever owns CrystaLens now (Bausch&Lomb sold them, I don't remember to whom) could discontinue sales today and nobody could have one implanted until the patent runs out in nine years and anyone can manufacture them. The same goes for Google contacts.

            Hmmm...blood sugar a little low? Suddenly all your adwords beside your google searches are for candy bars.

            Illegal. [wikipedia.org]

            And, as I mentioned in my first post, if it turns out not to be as profitable as Google desires, away it will go.

            This isn't a web service like gMail, it's a physical device. They can no more take it away than Amazon can take your hardcover copy of 1984.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:49AM (#45985765)

      It is able to send data. Yes, it is ment to be received by the user using whatever support (email, text message or whatever), but what guarantee do users have that google is not going to be sniffing?? Google is able to do, and in fact it does, *anything* they need to get data. The very last thing I would do is to tell them about my health, or even when I leave home or not with their Nest Thermostat? Any gadget own/developed by Google with the ability to transfer data is potentially invading your life (well, they do as Android devices come with privacy options disabled). I'm not thankful to Google to be involved in this sort of technology...

    • by Scowler (667000) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:51PM (#45989447)
      Here's the thing: FDA approval will be required for Google to actually sell this thing. And the FDA doesn't tolerate "Beta".
  • by sidevans (66118) on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:56AM (#45985181) Homepage

    Can they make my ex GF's eye's turn red before she goes crazy and attacks me, while having a low blood sugar experience?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:02AM (#45985247)

      my ex GF's eye's turn red before she goes crazy and attacks me,

      Kinky! So she's single now? Do you still have her number?

    • by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:08AM (#45985315)
      Always have a candy bar handy just in case you need to be mistaken for a paedo :)
    • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rmdingler (1955220) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:13AM (#45985373)
      It's cute that you still buy the low blood sugar explanation,

      but what is the frequency required for crazy to be considered an active state?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:32AM (#45985573)

      Obligatory SMBC [smbc-comics.com]

    • by wcrowe (94389) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:24AM (#45986121)

      Interesting. I'm diabetic and I've never heard of anyone behaving this way due to a low. Personally, I start shaking, I get weak, my heart starts pounding, and I break out in a sweat. The only thing I feel like attacking is a bag of gummy bears.

      • Re:Great (Score:4, Informative)

        by MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:14AM (#45986925)
        As a diabetic, if it sets on slowly then I find grumpyness to be a potential symptom. But there is a another consideration. OK I hate gummy bears, but to use your analogy. There is always one person I feel like attacking during a low. That is the person standing in between me and the gummy bears who won't get out of the way. Now add to that a simple preference of mine, and a predilection. When I do get a low odds are that it is a little before I sit down to eat. Given a choice, I would prefer to eat real food to treat a low rather then a "snack". So anyone who is in someway interfering with me preparing my meal, or sitting down to eat it, is gfoing to ghet there ass reamed.
      • by Kryis (947024) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:51AM (#45987543)
        Diabetic here too. My experiences with lows are similar to yours. I've spoken to other diabetics that have said that they have been found having an argument with a wall about whether they should have orange juice or not. Your brain can do weird things when starved of glucose.
        • by wcrowe (94389) on Friday January 17, 2014 @02:16PM (#45989793)

          That's no lie. The lowest I've ever gotten was 31. I went to my kit and checked myself, then proceeded to grab a needle and my novolog and give myself a shot! Suddenly I thought, "Wait a second. That's not what I want to do," and I reached for the bottle of glucose tabs instead. It was like my brain knew I was supposed to do something, but didn't quite know exactly what.

      • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:38PM (#45989287)

        Some folks do get belligerent, my father for one.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @03:54PM (#45991005)

        My symptoms vary quite a bit, from mildly irritable or plain goofy to outright wrestling with my husband who's 3x my size. I rarely get the physical symptoms that I got when I still produced my own insulin (trembling, palpitation, sweating), but I get strange new ones every so often. For instance, visual disturbances, like I've stepped into a Salvador Dali painting or "pixelation", with some groups of pixels distinctly out of place. It's kinda cool except for the general unhealthiness of it. Unfortunately, my reasoning ability is usually the first to go, so if I'm alone it is questionable whether I can figure out that it's my blood sugar that's the problem, and therefore I risk getting to crazytown before it dawns on me that I need glucose, if at all.

        A few times I've had to rely on coming out of it via gluconeogenesis. First time that happened, I retain some memory of the episode, and now I'm grateful that I usually don't. First I went outside and saw a bunch of snails, so I tried to get them to "race". Had a good ol' time with that, then I realized something was wrong and that I needed to drink some milk. For some reason I thought I didn't have any, but came up with the bright idea that I could make some using butter and an egg. Fortunately I was unable to get the microwave to work, and found my concoction there the next day.

        A new one came up just last week: paresis. My husband thought I'd had a stroke, but I had previously gone into convulsions, so clearly I was really low. When I finally was able to understand what was going on, I asked him to get my meter and could barely get that out since half my face was frozen. Not cool at all. Scared the crap out of me, in fact, so now I'm on a pretty severe regimen to get my numbers in check. For many years I just set my target high to avoid lows, and I did. But now I'm dealing with the complications of hyperglycemia.

        (Posting AC for the TMI content!)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @08:56AM (#45985193)

    Yesterday google glass... today google contact lenses... tomorrow google supository...insert the whole internet right up your ass!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:02AM (#45985243)

    Google wants to know your blood sugar level so that they know when best to target ads to you.

  • by Jay Marshall Wolman (2835781) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:08AM (#45985305)
    This looks like a development in the Google Glass project. It's a natural progression, much like people move from normal glasses to contact lenses, Google must be thinking of a way to turn Google Glass into a contact lens product. [It would raise major privacy issues if businesses could not identify who is wearing Google Contacts] Using a medical application sounds like an innocuous foray--a test of concept. That said, assuming no ulterior motive, it sounds like a worthy venture, especially if it improves upon current continuous glucose monitoring methods.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:20AM (#45985445)

      [It would raise major privacy issues if businesses could not identify who is wearing Google Contacts]

      Oh, cry me a river. Now my eyeballs are allowed to see things that my digital self cannot? There are many many spy cameras out there that are far cheaper and far less obvious than Google Glass, and there are ways to turn on the camera of a cell phone without it being obvious. You're not worried that it's possible to do something with a product, you're worried your annoying cousin will catch you on camera.

    • by barlevg (2111272) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:24AM (#45985489)
      No, the design for these contacts does not feature a display at present, and the most they're thinking for the future is something along the line of a single LED light (and I don't exactly see how that would work--if it's over the part of your eye that you can actually see, won't it blind you / seriously impair your vision when it goes off? And if it's not, then won't you need a buddy to tell you, "Hey, your eye is blinking"?). Most likely, this will communicate wirelessly with your cell phone (like a Fitbit or other personal fitness device) and send you an alert when your glucose is low/high.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:08AM (#45985311)

    All they had to do was ask Microsoft, no need to wonder.

    I'm all for google driving this forward, but have a little humility and acknowledge passing the baton. This is no moon shot.

  • by holiggan (522846) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:11AM (#45985361)

    This is amazing news... I believe we might not be far from some sort of sensor that will monitor our main "health checks" (sugar level in blood, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rate, etc) and give us an accurate, real time report, in a non-intrusive / painful way...

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:52AM (#45985783)

      No, it's not amazing at all. First of all, it's Google who are doing it. Yes, the same Google that gave us a retarded pair of skiing glasses with a camera strapped on to them. The chance of THIS working is close to zero. Second, it's Google who is doing this. IF they would succeed, they would want to monitor the user and charge shit-loads of money for it. Great, huh? Third, a whole bunch of other research programs are doing non-invasive BG research right now. I hope one of them succeed but I very much hope this one does not.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:19AM (#45986073)

        thanks for contributing nothing, you're making slashdot great!

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:58AM (#45986659)

          thanks for contributing nothing, you're making slashdot great!

          Wow, nice of you to really add to the discussion, where are the citations for what you have found or know of?

          He brings up a legit point, Google cannot be trusted, and he mentions other research that's been under way by varies Universities, and generalMedical Research. You to lazy to investigate the other methods?

          If Google is smart [and I doubt it] they will help or assist in making this but stay of out of collecting the data. Make remote software [preferably by an trust open source community] for a laptop or tablet to collect the data and using a USB or any other coin pocket storage device, the Doctor would be the only one view those stats, of course it probably would help if your device wasn't connected to the internet unless it was somehow just about full proof from the data being hi-jacked.

          Google will more then likely charge for the data storage and then charge to access the data, that also means the NSA or any government agency, and pretty much any third party Google decides to sell it to can also access the data. All tho one wonders what possible use they would get from it, that they couldn't get from tracing/tracking your computer, ISP, ect..

          It is a great idea, but would only be better if Google was funding money to a project out of goodness, instead of possibly having some scheme in mind to further there own pocket books.

          The only problem would be if they displaying the information right into your eye, if it collects data to a separate device and then warns you of high or low glucose and the contacts do not cause any noticeable blotching in your vision, from the chip/antenna it would be great as a constant non-invasive monitor.

    • This is amazing news... I believe we might not be far from some sort of sensor that will monitor our main "health checks" (sugar level in blood, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rate, etc) and give us an accurate, real time report, in a non-intrusive / painful way...

      Something I'm sure insurance companies would love to know.

      Oh, you're mostly in the green, but for 10 days in 2013, I see you went into the yellow for your health. That'll be a 10% unhealthy habits surcharge on your premium. Next time, go easy on the sweets, especially around the holidays and your birthday.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:18AM (#45985425) Homepage Journal
    Won't be cheaper/less bulky instead of antenna and cpu to send the information to simply show an icon in your vision and let the wearer decide what to do? If must have that logic and let the doctors decide for the patient, an implant (in the arm or wherever, with more freedom to put more sensors) would be less cumbersome than putting on contact lenses every day for this. In fact, contact lenses with certain areas reacting to some chemical conditions in eyes surface changing color could need no circuits at all, and the wearear would have some icons on display when something is wrong.
  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:25AM (#45985509)

    This is a lot more realistic than the ever-repeating "display integrated into a contact lens" stories. Continuous, non-invasive monitoring of blood sugar will be an enormous boon, especially if it can be integrated with insulin-pump control.

    Having said that, though, wearing a contact lens actually is kind of invasive. I wore them happily for many years, but there were also periods where it wasn't a very happy experience. Contacts do increase certain risks to your eyes, and diabetics already face significant risks to their vision. (As far as I know, the cornea-related risks from contacts are independent of the retina-related risks from diabetes.) I can imagine many diabetics wouldn't be very enthusiastic about wearing a contact lens, especially if they don't need it for vision correction.

    • by reebmmm (939463) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:57PM (#45988597)

      Diabetic here. I would wear the contact lens in a heartbeat. The idea is that this device would replace the finger pricks, otherwise known as holes in skin. And when you repeatedly test on your fingers (6-10/day), that's a lot of holes and a lot of blood. There is risk for infections, scabs and blisters. And long time diabetics develop callouses on their fingers from testing which means that they need to poke deeper to get blood.

      Plus the checking isn't really "constant." You have to periodically check during the day. That means that you can go high or go low between checks and perhaps not realize it until you have symptoms.

      There are constant glucose monitors. Essentially a large pager you carry around that is connected to the body via an injection site. They're great. They measure changes in BS very well, but they're very limited in duration, insertions are painful, and the disposable bits are really expensive. You also need the finger sticks because (as far as I'm aware) few are accurate enough to give you the same level of accuracy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:27AM (#45985527)

    So now google can send you spam/ads about pharmaceutics according to your blood sugar levels and probably other health data, plus wearing google glasses will know your usual routes (therefore maximizing the localization of the pharmacy business near close)... basically the us government should dismantle the NSA and outsource the job to google, they are doing IT right and for profit.

  • by Guppy (12314) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:30AM (#45985551)

    This would be an excellent development, bit keep in mind the field is littered with many dozens of failed devices and startup companies.

    Of the various http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noninvasive_glucose_monitor [slashdot.org]"> non-invasive glucose monitoring methods that have been tried, I am aware of only one that was approved in the US (a transcutaneous electroporation device), and that one was withdrawn from the market shortly after.

  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:33AM (#45985595)

    Shouldn't they first determine if tears are an accurate way to measure glucose in the first place? That could be measured now, even if it would not be convenient. It would seem that if you are willing to wear a micro sensor in your eye, why not just inject it under the skin? If you did that, you could make it the size of an rfid tag.

  • by Idou (572394) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:35AM (#45985619) Journal
    The contact lens requires tears. The most effective generator of tears? Pinpricks . . . .
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:36AM (#45985629)

    If it's like the other continuous monitoring devices, it will be priced in the stratosphere, with sensors "needing" to be replaced every few days, at $75 a pop.

  • by buck-yar (164658) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:46AM (#45985745)

    Most people get "diabetes" on a regular basis, to some extent. Or rather insulin resistance. Best article I've read ever on diabetes http://www.researchgate.net/publication/237658613_New_Insights_and_New_Therapies_for_Insulin_Resistance [researchgate.net]

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:01AM (#45985887)

    I can't wear contacts. This would be great for diabetics who can, though. I guess I'll still be waiting for some other non-intrusive method.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:01AM (#45985889)

    good luck getting past the infinite hubris of medical research

  • missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rst123 (2440064) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:12AM (#45986001)

    I think many of the comments are missing the point, Diabetes testing supplies are worth a lot of money every year. If, and that's a big if, Google can introduce a market altering device, (patented, I'm sure) they will largely own the market.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:43AM (#45986413)

      I'm trying to figure out why this was even developed at Google, and then it came to me. (this is pure speculation, please don't get all pissed off...)

      Someone at the top of the Google food chain either has Diabetes, or has a loved one with Diabetes.

      Reminds me of a comedy sketch (Can't remember if it was from SNL or not) where this president (who was drunk all the time) helped cure cancer...by giving all the scientists cancer.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:48AM (#45986487)

        Wait i found the quote. It's even better:

        "AGENT: Oh yes. You won Germany in World War 3. World War 3 only lasted 20 minutes and ended with you smashing a bottle over the chancellor's face. But perhaps your greatest achievement, sir, was your cure for cancer.

        DAVID: How did I cure cancer?

        AGENT: Well, you took nine of the heads of the world's largest corporation and gave them all cancer. Within seven months, we had 4 different cures.
        "

      • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:48AM (#45986495)

        Google allows engineers to have time to pursue their own products. It doesn't require someone at the top to approve it, just a talented engineering with an interest.

      • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:33AM (#45987261)

        I'm trying to figure out why this was even developed at Google, and then it came to me. (this is pure speculation, please don't get all pissed off...)

        Someone at the top of the Google food chain either has Diabetes, or has a loved one with Diabetes.

        Considering the prevalence of diabetes in the US, that seems like a remarkably safe bet.

        Maybe that did motivate someone at the top of Google. Or maybe they want to do some good in the world. Or maybe they want big bucks from health-care. Or all of the above.

    • by Dynamoo (527749) on Friday January 17, 2014 @05:26PM (#45992135) Homepage
      Too right. A box of testing strips for my glucose monitor is £25 for 50 (about $40). Lancets are a lot cheaper, but combined it costs 60p ($1) every time I give myself a blood test.. and that's assuming I can do it first time. OK, I don't have to pay for those (I'm in the UK and the NHS pays) but *somebody* has to pay and GPs are increasingly reluctant to renew prescriptions for patients such as myself who are not on insulin.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:36PM (#45995461)

      so that they don't patent the business model, here is how i think they will use this:

      contacts report blood sugar level so they know if you're hungry and your connected phone or other communications device finds from google a location-based advertisement to offer you food. "Google phone notices you are hungry now. How about a cheeseburger? It's just around the corner. Click now for $1 off!"

  • by ThatsDrDangerToYou (3480047) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:51AM (#45986539)
    It's nice to wake up to something like this--people doing good work that could help a lot of people. Even if the particular project fails (if, for example, you cannot measure blood glucose in the tears), the advance in miniaturization and implementation of a contact lens based solution will have a lot of applications.

    Then I read all the AC comments about how much this sucks and they don't want it to succeed, because "Google bad!". Screw you guys.

    d

  • by Slyder (30950) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:03AM (#45986743)

    Some of the original research in this area was carried out by Angelika Domschke (http://www.linkedin.com/pub/angelika-domschke/19/709/824). For example, this study happened back in 2006 - http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/dia.2006.8.89 [liebertpub.com].

    Fun fact - Google tried to recruit her and she turned them down after meeting their team.

  • by nomad63 (686331) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:04PM (#45987759)
    I am a type-2 diabetic for the past quarter century and most probably I have used any glucose measuring device ever manufactured in the US. Even the minimal intrusion ones are not fun to deal with and to carry around. This contact lens device, which is always on, would be a god sent.

    I wish I were working for google and could participate in the "beta" testing phase of it :)
  • by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:08PM (#45988795)

    Before anyone gets the idea that Google did meaningful research, know that the real science and technology here has been demonstrated in labs for 20 years. The quotation from Google in TFS makes it look like Google solved a "mystery" and did science, but what they did is normal Google work: they packaged other people's publicly funded and disclosed work, slapped patent protection on it, and commercialized it. To some people this is the heart of innovation, but whether or not you think it's impressive, at least recognize that Google did polishing and packaging here, not an iota of science.

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Friday January 17, 2014 @01:13PM (#45988867)
    Make sure not to wear them to a job interview, lest you're wirelessly ruled out due the risk of higher medical costs related to diabetes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 18, 2014 @04:02PM (#46000585)

    I'm a type 1 diabetic.

    Personally, the comments of people making fun of the fact that when someone has low blood sugar and does weird things due to either a small or large amount of brain trauma make me sick.

    I digress.

    Any diabetic who is "in control" knows that your blood sugar has to be between 4 and 8 mmol/L. 90% of diabetics out there are "out of control" and either don't test their blood sugars often, don't care or have light control. To be in control, one needs to log their carbohydrate intake and take the right amount of insulin for EVERY consumption.

    Another majority (usually onset) take pills and have to match their carbohydrates for their daily doses of insulin.

    All of this being said, a meter is something that can deter someone who is out of control from getting in control as it is a hassle sometimes to constantly keep on you and use. This on the other hand, paired with a phone which EVERYONE usually has on them ALL THE TIME, could offer a significant advantage over a conventional meter.

    The moral of the story is that Google could help that 90% of 38 million diabetics in the USA that are out of control, gain control over their health. This could mean lengthening their life spans by up to 20%.

    Sound good to anyone?

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