Always at the forefront of technological advancements, Google has applied for patents for a set of smart contact lenses. The contacts lenses, which go beyond the aesthetics of the wearable technology trend, have a medical purpose: they can help the blind “see”. The contacts, which would be embedded with a small camera and sensors, would assist the blind in managing their daily lives by alerting them that they’re nearing a busy intersection or using facial recognition to notify them that a friend is passing by, just to name a few applications.
If the idea becomes a reality, the lenses would be no thicker than a normal pair of contacts. The camera would be very small and sit near the edge of the contact lens, so even those with normal eyesight could take advantage of the convenient built-in camera. In addition to being able to take photographs with the blink of an eye, the lenses will process both still and moving image data, as well as light, colors, patterns of colors, objects, faces, motion, and more. From there, the wearer could control the lenses by blinking and perform functions based on the data retrieved by the contacts directly from a mobile device.
Smart Contact Lenses: An Evolving Product
In January 2014, Google announced in a blog post that they’d like to create smart contact lenses to help diabetics monitor their blood sugar levels. Although the project is separate, it goes hand in hand with their latest patent application to integrate micro cameras into smart contact lenses. Perhaps the most remarkable part of Google’s most recent patent application is the potential uses Google outlines for the device. These smart lenses could help the blind in their day-to-day life, and those without visual impairment could use the contact lenses to enhance their vision.
Beyond the medical-and consumer-oriented applications, these smart contact lenses could help the police recognize a criminal’s face in a crowd, or a bulge under a jacket as a concealed weapon. Soldiers wearing smart contact lenses could use infrared imaging to see through smoke or use real-time range finding for more accurate sniping. The lenses would be controlled by the movement of a user’s eyelids and read by multiple sensors that react to changes in pressure, temperature, and electrical fields.
The Future of Technology
Although the contacts can be used by anyone who can get their hands on them, the glucose-monitoring lenses and the lenses embedded with a camera show that Google is focused on improving public health through the use of technology. While the patents are relatively new and it’s too soon to tell whether or not these products will ever see the light of day, the patents show that technology can be used in a variety of beneficial ways, particularly when it comes to monitoring and improving health.