Wearable tech has come a step further with smart contact lenses. Google’s is working on contact lenses that have a built-in camera and sensors. They actually filed the patent back in 2012 with the US Patent and Trademark office and the contact lens is currently being developed by Google X labs. This is Google’s top-secret facility, where all manner of technological advancements and products are created, most of which – like the smart lens – almost seem too science-fiction-ish, but are actually just wildly imaginative and groundbreaking.

Medical applications
Like a normal contact lens, the smart lens adjusts itself to the center of the eye. The camera also follows your vision. The contact lens’ current proposed applications are mostly medical, as its sensors are designed to read glucose levels from the tear fluids of the eye. This non-invasive way of monitoring sugar levels is particularly useful for diabetes patients as well as those monitoring other minor and major health problems. As of April of this year, the lenses already have two patents related to this.

As for the camera-related patent also filed by Google, it describes how the lens’ embedded camera is meant to take photos and detect them, functioning mainly as a tool to help the visually impaired.

The potential of smart contact lenses applications
This camera technology’s potential to reach heights as advanced as facial recognition or giving the wearer the ability to achieve superhuman eyesight or night vision may be in our near future. Privacy issues will definitely be one of the hurdles we’ll have to face once this technology is fully developed, especially since the lenses can be very inconspicuous.

What it looks like now
Because cameras are meant to absorb light, the CMOS camera sensors’ circuitry in the most recent prototype is visible in the lens as a circular golden ring. This ring can look quite distracting, so there’s still room for improvement in terms of the lens’ aesthetics.

Since it’s still currently in development, we’re going to have more to look forward to pretty soon!

54 Comments
  1. The impact of the glucose monitoring facet alone is astounding. There is other research going on in this area, but for the most part a sub dermal implant is the means by which to achieve no-needle blood sugar data. Should Google pull this off and bring a completely non invasive glucose monitor to market it will be amazing. On the other hand, I can totally geek out over the possible routes this technology could take in terms of videography, surveillance or even wildlife studies should it be producible for non-human eye shapes.

    • Yes, given all the concern and negativity which people hold over privacy, I hope that even if Google eventually has to drop this idea of a “smart contact lens”, they would still create a lens solely for medical purposes, without camera capability.

      Blood glucose data would not only help diabetics, but also people suffering from glycemia. Imagine if someone passed out due to low blood sugar. The contact lens could detect the anomaly in blood glucose level and sound an alarm to paramedics. Such lifesaving technology needs to be developed as soon as possible.

  2. It’s good that Google is finally coming out with some better eye-wear, since the Google glass ended up not working out so well. It’s always a bit creepy when another wearable piece of technology come out though, but I really want to see those medical advances.

  3. Not sure how I feel about this. Already, Google glass makes me fairly uneasy. Having a conversation with someone, while knowing that I’m being recorded, is fairly uncomfortable and somewhat unnatural.
    I get the feeling that the knowledge I’m being recorded has a tendency to make my conversation much less candid and spontaneous. It’s as though it makes want to “stick to script” and say things that might already be expected of me.
    At least with Google glass, I know I’m being recorded. It occurs to me that if smart contact lenses become widespread, the inability to tell whether a given person is wearing the contacts will lead me to assume that _everyone_ is wearing them. This might stultify interaction, even between people that aren’t wearing the lenses.

  4. I’ve always thought about this since I was a kid – how cool it would be to be able to broadcast what you’re seeing with your own eyes. Now with Google Glass and now this – wow, technology is really something else!

    • Me too js85, it is like concepts people have thought about for a long time are starting to become a reality. It is exciting times for tech developments.

  5. Now this is something truly amazing. Just imagine what they can do with these things as the ability to make smaller pixels onto a contact lens comes about. You could create an entire augmented reality with these things, able to see lots of different information right in front of your eyes at all times.

  6. I think that technology is growing very fast. The Google contacts sound a little crazy but could help in so many ways. The fact of a camera being on my eye sounds a little weird and may cause problems with sales because people may be scared to wear them. When you think of contacts with cameras, the first thing that comes to mind is that these should be used in law enforcement for under cover agents.

    • The idea of using contacts with cameras in law enforcement is pretty interesting. Imagine if we had video of pretty much every police-related incident. I wonder what that would do to putative cases of abuse of power.
      Take for example the recent Ferguson incident: would the subsequent events and reaction have been any different if video had been available from the point of view of the officers involved?
      Seems like the constant recording would be a bit of a double-edged sword for law enforcement agencies.

  7. This is so cool! It’s crazy that they can fit that technology onto a thin contact lens. I’ve been wearing them for decades and never thought much of it. If I could try this out I’d be pretty excited.

  8. This is by far the coolest concept by Google. It may seem frightening now considering all the privacy issues we are facing now, but it is far more intriguing when looking at the health related perks of technology like this. I am curious to know how they develop this product, knowing that current contact lenses are quite a hassle to put up with. Google X labs sure seems like a really cool place to work in.

    • Rob, I’m also worried about privacy. If those lenses were to be sold to the general public just like that, then we’d surely experience a really serious privacy issue! Isn’t so bad right now because everyone can see when someone is wearing those Google glasses, but the Google lenses? It’s be almost impossible to detect them! I truly hope they only use those lenses in a medical setting.

    • I wonder what kind of environment they have at Google X. It think it would be a great place to work too. You’d get to get involved with a little bit of everything, I think. I bet there’s a lot of great research and collaboration.

      • It really is, but I bet that they only gather the most intelligent people to develop their new ideas. Is it too late for a career change? heh…

  9. This is really awesome! I’ve always been dreaming about having something similar to this, and it seems like it could be a reality sooner than I thought. Let’s hope that its consumer version, if it releases, is better than I expect 😀

  10. I can’t help but wonder how comfortable these are. I wonder if they feel like actual contacts, or like a grain of sand in your eye. Otherwise, really cool gadget! we will just have to see if they can take off, unlike google glass.

  11. This is the kind of technology I like, it is discreet and non-intrusive, I don’t mind if I am not aware what someone else is doing. If you don’t know about it, it cannot brother you, right? There are some very beneficial benefits to this technology too, helping people with impairment.

  12. I’m very happy that Google are still working on smart glasses since I think they will be worn by everyone in the future. The idea and the range of possibilities with those glasses are infinite.
    I think they will be mandatory for everyone when they develop them better, as well as the smart watches.

    • I don’t really see smart watches/contact lenses becoming mandatory anytime soon, if at all. It seems like there are just too many privacy implications for that to happen. Smart watches and contact lenses basically enable constant monitoring of the wearer’s activities, and not everyone is going to be okay with that.
      In addition, there will doubtless be many manufacturers and service providers. Making smart contacts mandatory seems pointless unless a specific provider is selected and stuck to, but how would the choice be made? It sounds like it could introduce all sorts of conflicts and/or corruption issues.

    • Google Glass hasn’t been successful at this point mostly due to privacy concerns. In fact there are many people working to prevent this kind of technology being used by any government or even any private organizations for tracking purposes. I recently read a good article on the topic on Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jure-klepic/people-arent-seeing-the-legal_b_4113417.html. I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll see mandatory use in the future. People generally dislike the idea of others monitoring them.

  13. Although this technology is astounding, this, like the google glass, it raises some serious privacy issues, with the camera and all. And there are many other questions that arise, like how are you gonna extract images from the lens? What if there’s a short circuit or some problem while it’s still in your eye? That could be hazardous to our health. And these lenses could also be exploited.

    • I imagine the health and technical issues will be addressed over time, but the potential for exploitation is a trickier issue. I see this as a tool being used in specific industries rather than for personal use, but that doesn’t prevent people from sneaking a lens home with them.

  14. Amazing! This is the first I’ve heard of this and I have to say I’m impressed with the idea. I can’t think of a better use for them than the medical applications, and without the them, this piece of wearable tech probably won’t have much value to anyone.

  15. This is incredibly cool, and a little creepy. I have a hard enough time putting in regular contacts that don’t contain anything, it would seem odd to be placing a camera directly on my eye. However, the implications for those with diabetes and other medical conditions is amazing. Particularly for juvenile diabetes, I think it would be easier to teach children (not ones too young) to wear contacts than to have to get multiple shots each day.

  16. I suffer from insulin resistance, something like this would be wonderful for me, but I wonder if the cost of this would be too high and if it would be available for everyone who needed it asap or just a few lucky ones? I really wonder, but I guess only time will be able to tell for sure! This kind of things aren’t cheap at all that’s for sure.

    I truly hope those lenses are only marketed to be used in the medical field only tho, that’s where they should stay! If they are marketed to the general public with no restrictions, then we could be facing huge privacy issues, but I really doubt this will ever happen.

    • I completely agree, I don’t see this taking off in the private sector. I would, however, love to see its applications laboratory research!

  17. I think this could prove to be a viable alternative to Google Glass, at least in research/manufacturing applications! Being able to study and document one’s research or the manufacturing of things like microchips could greatly improve the quality and results. I’m uncertain as to personal applications but there are definitely some applications for which this technology is perfectly suited.

  18. This is a huge advancement in the medical field. Being able to check your glucose levels with a piece of technology as small and as simple as a contact lens is out of this world and a major victory for the technology of today.

  19. My mom has diabetes, and I am very worried whenever she checks her blood sugar, and I have to see her prick her finger, which would actually take days to heal, as it is one of the effects of diabetes. This would actually be great as there will be no involve pricking anymore, and blood especially.

    About the design, I was actually imagining somewhat like in the movie “The Host”, where there are light rings in the eyes.

  20. I still think that the wearable products that come out lately are only the beginning, be that google glasses or iwatch or whatever other wearable device/piece of technology. Whenever I think of the wearable technology I think of it as a child that starts raising up through the years and get more and more mature. This is indeed a breakthrough in technology. I am curious about the release date of the final product.

  21. I personally can’t see a use for this other than the medical reasons that they describe. Something I’m curious about is how are the pictures going to be taken off of it? I doubt that it has any sort of wifi or bluetooth inside of it, and there is no USB port to just plug it into your computer. That’s what I find most fascinating about this, how do they get those files off?

  22. Very nice, another futuristic technology by Google. It’s simply amazing, the fact that it can monitor facet is amazing enough. Just think about the future upgrades this can have, like you mentioned superhuman sight, being able to zoom in to see something better. Wow, coming from a nearsighted person, I would love this!

  23. Sounds really interesting. But I don’t think it has any other practical use other than medical and possibly military. The camera thing is a bit creepy if they manage to have a camera that can record every possible moment that you see. Might be useful for detectives and people under surveillance.

  24. Just imagine is Google perfects this technology and almost all people have this in their eyes. That would be the perfect way to spy on everyone. Every person is a walking spy camera. I think this technology would be great if they can actually use it to correct eye problem and possible make blind people see.

    • I think the things that you said is in the realm of science fiction but that’s not to say that they can’t happen. It’s perfectly plausible that the government is backing up all these projects just so they can find more ways to really spy on us, you know for “security”.

      But if they were to make this technology to the point that it can make it possible for blind people to see again then it’s going to be great.

  25. This is great and at the same time kind of scary. If this is used for medical purposes then I think it would be of great help but with a few adjustments I think this can be one dangerous tool that can be used by the government to spy on all of us.

    I actually like the current design that was mentioned in this blog. They golden rings which is kind of cool I guess. Makes you feel like you’re talking to an android of some sort. If this is going to be successful I think Google will have to transition in their Glass project with this contacts.

  26. This is insane in technology! Just imagine if they could put a display on that! It’d be awesome having a discrete HUD right on your eyeball! I remember awhile back while watching the Science Channel, some scientists were able to display 1 pixel onto a lens, but I’m pretty sure that the technology since then has advanced much more.

  27. This is an amazing advancement in our technology, indeed technology is keep getting better and better, I know this would be possible, and now here we are, Imagine a HUD in your eyes.

  28. Google glasses and now this? Man google is awsome. Only if the prices came down then I can buy there products. Google is awesome.

  29. That sounds awesome, but the potential for abuse would be staggering. There would have to be some way to easily notice them or you could film anything you wanted in secret. Your date could film you having sex and upload it to the net. Someone could use it for blackmail or for spying. I would caution even introducing this type of tech onto the market until those types of issues could be addressed properly.

    • I imagine that the CMOS sensor would only be basic, and that the frame rate or quality would be good enough for still pictures at extremely low resolutions. Yes, the potential for abuse is pretty apparent, but the whole reason is for medical applications, so this contact lens would probably be prescribed to those with diabetes, not to the public. For now, the lens could be detected because of the golden ring around the lens.

  30. The “smart” contact lens, I feel would be a wonderful advance in technology giving an user the ability to see well beyond average eye sight. I also feel it would be pretty neat to take pictures with a contact lens. I wonder if the lens could be hacked and pictures taken be viewed and released. Or how safe are these things imagine one or both malfunctioning the damage it could cause to your actual eye.

  31. I absolutely love the idea of being able to photograph what it is that you’re seeing. Especially when I see something great, but by the time I get my phone / camera, that moment is already lost. I would buy one of these in a heartbeat! I can definitely see how privacy would be a big issue. As much as I think Google glass looked dorky, at least you can see that someone is wearing it. Whereas this secret camera can capture people, who honestly might not want some stranger taking their picture. I’m excited to see how this will turn out though.

  32. Amazing read! I can’t believe that what we’ve imagined would stay as science fiction such as smart camera lenses is actually coming true day by day. I’m so fascinated with the fact that it would be able to pick up glucose levels, as that is extremely relevant to me seeing that I’m a diabetic myself. Over the years of being a diabetic, my eyesight hasn’t been perfect either. The only true worries are privacy concerns and whether what you see through the lenses could be monitored or others not knowing that they could be potentially recorded. Still, I would consider buying this if or when it comes to full fruition.

  33. I could never do contacts. I couldn’t imagine putting anything like that in my eyes. It would be annoying. But it’s awesome that technology is advancing so much.

  34. What can’t Google do? A contact lens is absolutely astonishing. I’m really impressed that it will have a camera, although even with Google glass I feel like some features will be distracting to the consumer. We’re truly getting to the point where our tech will be completely integrated with our bodies.

  35. This feat of engineering is incredible. They can pack all of that technology into a contact lens. A glucose sensor, a camera, and the cpu to process all of that. If they add night-vision, facial recognition, or even the superhuman sight this will be a hit. Never doubt the power of Google, they certainly have the money to make this possible.

  36. This is brilliantly scary stuff. It’s like a scene out of Minority Report.

    I think the medical opportunities are exciting, particularly as I’m a contact lens wearer already. But I do worry about the security implications.

  37. I think a great use for these would be to video tape college classes. I personally would have done much better in college if I could have video taped everything, then reviewed each lesson often. I know these are random thoughts, but that is my first thought when I here about a personal video camera!

    Of course, I wonder if it is possible for someone to wear this, then tragically be murdered, then the police could obtain the video/images off of the camera? Okay, that’s a gruesome thought, but I wonder if it is possible? Hmmmm….

  38. It doesn’t look like Google Glass will last long. It appears to be another fad. Plus, people look ridiculous wearing those things on the street and it is only a matter of time before more laws pop up governing the proper use of the Glass. They are already targeting drivers and now movie goers. Soon it will be anyone walking on the street.

  39. Wow, this is so James Bond-esque. Hahaha! But to be honest, if you’re not a spy, I don’t see why there is a need for this. I’d also would rather see them spending more money on developing and implementing green energy techniques than this.

  40. Super cool! I’m impressed by these kinds of futuristic-related features found in the current implementation of technology and science. I’m hoping supports are coming in for the project. Technically, the public should also be supported so that they could actually make sure that they are ready to use the contact lenses, should they be ready for launch.

  41. This is insanely cool, literally something out of a sci-fi movie. Of course with technology like this you’ll have security issues to worry about, but that’s progress.

  42. Medical applications be damned! I’m totally using this to fulfill my dream of being a secret agent. It’s going to be so awesome! I just hope the resolution isn’t so piss-poor and the fps isn’t below 30. It looks like the battery won’t be too much of a problem though because rumors are that the thing operates at very low currents.

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