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Google Medicine Technology

Google Announces Smart Contact Lens Project For Diabetics 90

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 sidevans ( 66118 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:56AM (#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

      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?

    • 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 @10:13AM (#45985373) Journal
      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 wcrowe ( 94389 )

      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 @12:14PM (#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 )
        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 )

          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.

      • Some folks do get belligerent, my father for one.

        • As I diabetic, I can definitely say that low blood sugar makes me grumpy and irritable.

          4 out of 5 fights with my fiance, a nurse, end before they begin with her telling me to not say anything else until she gets me a glass of fruit juice.
        • The belligerence is usually when they have high glucose levels. When the glucose is low they usually look sedated.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 17, 2014 @09:56AM (#45985193)

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

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Hey, did you hear a judge threw out [] the ticket that some cop in CA gave to the lady for driving while wearing her Google Glass? Apparently he said there was no proof that the thing was actually on. For once, the good guys win. Next thing you'll hear about is some dude blowing away someone in a movie theater for wearing their Google Glass.
      • Next thing you'll hear about is some dude blowing away someone in a movie theater for wearing their Google Glass.

        Why not, people have been shot in theaters for less... recently in fact.

  • by Anonymous Coward

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

    • hipaa will them smackdown Google very hard and I hope the fine is at least 3X-5X what they made off the ads.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        nice job must have missed the clinical trials part, and the FDA part, so 'm guessing they will be hipaa compliant, that is al, you may now go ahead and continue you're circle jerk of useless commentary.

      • By using their device, connected to their proprietary smartphone app, you are granting consent (I'm certain it'll be in the EULA) for Google to use the information for their purposes. HIPAA will keep them from sharing your specific medical information, but it wouldn't in any way, restrict them from using your most recent blood sugar readings to determine what ads to put at the top of your gmail inbox or beside your google searches.
  • 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 improve
    • 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 Fitbi
      • LEDs don't need to be blindingly bright.
        • I think pretty much anything is blindingly bright if placed on your cornea.
          • Because brightness increases asymptotically with distance to your cornea, as opposed to based off a power function like every other phenomenon in optics?
            • what? 1/r^2 isn't enough for you? Depending on how the LED was constructed, I could see your eye absorbing pretty much 100% of the photons it generated. How many photons hitting the retina is enough to blind you, given that the human eye is capable of observing single photon events? I believe that much of the eye's dynamic range is due to the iris, is it not? In which case, the light source would have to be dead-center over the iris or risk getting filtered out. Now, if there are LEDs that can produce singl
      • by Kryis ( 947024 )
        You could probably have an LED pressed against the white of your eye (which is likely to actually be quite thin) which you will be able to see when it flashes; you'll get tints of colour at the edge of your field of vision.
  • by holiggan ( 522846 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:11AM (#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 tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      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

  • 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 a
    • IDK maybe because they want to track levels via there smartphone vs to high or to low via a led. Combine it with other data to get a better picture of whats going on.

    • Is display technology yet at the level where you could actually put a HUD on a contact lens with (1) you actually being able to focus on it and (2) without it blinding you / seriously impairing your vision?
      • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
        Don't need to be "display", no led, no lcd, just a tinted/more opaque small area with a special shape, maybe something similar to eInk.
        • but can one's eye resolve that? My eyes can't resolve dirt on my glasses--it just makes my field of vision blurrier. Or are you thinking the whole contact gets more opaque?
          • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
            The problem is focus, i suppose, but i'm not so sure how it works with i.e. google glass if you must watch something that you have pretty close to one of your eyes and other things far at the same time. In the other hand, if instead of dirt would be a section of your glasses tinted blue, would you notice it? Should not be something to be read, with sharp borders, and blocking vision, just something that must be noticed.
            • The problem is focus, i suppose, but i'm not so sure how it works with i.e. google glass if you must watch something that you have pretty close to one of your eyes and other things far at the same time.

              It's like with EVFs on digital cameras, or HUDs in airplanes. You use lenses to make the picture appear to have the same angular size, but much larger distance.

        • You'd need optics for that. The image would be nowhere near any conceivable focal plane, front or rear. You'd have to actively project images onto the retina.
    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      I don't have diabetes but I am fairly close to somebody who does have diabetes. Having a continuous log of sugar levels is something that is VERY useful in treating the condition. Sure, just having an alert would certainly be useful, not but really sufficient.

      One issue I see with contacts is that they can't really be left in 24x7 without increased risk of complications. Of course, many people do just this all the same. Blood sugars dropping during sleep is definitely a scenario that you'd want your sens

    • 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?

      The optics to project that would be tricky. Also, what would happen if you were sleeping? Would you risk the possibility of the projection being insufficient to wake you up?

  • by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:25AM (#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 )

      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

  • by Guppy ( 12314 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:30AM (#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 []"> 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 @10:33AM (#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 wcrowe ( 94389 )

      I wondered about this myself. I'm skeptical that tears are as accurate as blood testing.

  • by Idou ( 572394 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @10:35AM (#45985619) Journal
    The contact lens requires tears. The most effective generator of tears? Pinpricks . . . .
    • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

      The funny thing was that I showed a picture of this to a diabetic friend and told them that it measured blood sugar through the eye. They literally shrieked in horror thinking that it meant that it would be stabbing them in the eye.

  • 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.

  • Most people get "diabetes" on a regular basis, to some extent. Or rather insulin resistance. Best article I've read ever on diabetes []

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 )

    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.

  • missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rst123 ( 2440064 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @11:12AM (#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 Dynamoo ( 527749 )
      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.
  • 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.


  • by Slyder ( 30950 ) on Friday January 17, 2014 @12:03PM (#45986743)

    Some of the original research in this area was carried out by Angelika Domschke ( For example, this study happened back in 2006 - [].

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

  • 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 :)
  • 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

  • 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.

Money can't buy love, but it improves your bargaining position. -- Christopher Marlowe