Business Technology

Friday 20 April 2018

All eyes on Google as web giant files patent for contact lens technology

The Google smart contact lens. Photo: PA
The Google smart contact lens. Photo: PA
What Google Glass looks like on a user. Photo: PA

Kunal Dutta

FORGET Google Glass – the next wearable technology trend could be Google contact lenses.

As the web giant's $1,500 (€1,084) hi-tech spectacles finally went on sale to the general public in the US yesterday, news emerged of another cutting-edge idea that could one day revolutionise how we see the world.

Google has filed a patent in the US for its plans to embed micro cameras and sensors into contact lenses. The lenses would allow wearers to control their smartphones and surf the internet just by blinking. Users would also be able to take photographs from within their direct line of vision.

According to the patent, filed in 2012 and published yesterday on an intellectual property blog tracking US-registered patents, the lenses would be able to detect their owner's unique blinking patterns as well as light, colour, objects, faces and motion without obstructing day-to-day vision.

Experts believe the device could be of use to blind people, as the camera and analysis components could process image data to determine if the wearer is approaching, for example, a busy road.

News of the early-stage plans were published yesterday, just as Google Glass went on sale for 24 hours in the US, in a move that experts believe will test the public appetite for wearable technology.

Development of the smart contact lenses is still at least a decade away. But they could ultimately solve an embarrassing image problem around so-called wearable technology. Google Glass spectacles may be a must-have item in the tech world, but they are still considered something of a fashion faux pas by many.

Websites dedicated to "Glassholes" – people looking smug or ridiculous – have been springing up ever since the first prototypes were unveiled last year. Experts also believe the first iterations of Google Glass could soon be rendered obsolete or upgraded, making the $1,500 price tag more an item of decadence.

The camera contact lenses build on an early contact lens prototype that Google has been developing to monitor glucose levels in diabetics' tears. The company said the technology could put an end to painful, daily blood tests endured by millions of diabetics and that the sensors were so small they looked "like bits of glitter".

Separately, the firm yesterday announced it had acquired a firm making high-altitude drones. The acquisition of Titan Aerospace comes as Google continues to develop its Project Loon, which aims to bring the internet to more people by carrying a wifi signal around the world in aircraft, mainly weather balloons. (©Independent News Service)

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