Science and Tech


Novartis Joins Google To Make Smart Contact Lens

Google has found a partner, health care company Novartis, to bring its smart contact lens prototype to the consumer market.
Posted at 3:56 PM, Jul 15, 2014

Looks like Google and health care company Novartis are seeing eye to eye. The duo struck a contract Tuesday to make the search giant's futuristic contact lens a reality.

​​In January, Google first teased its smart contact lens project and began looking for partners to bring the idea into the consumer market. It focused on creating noninvasive biometric sensors and wireless data transfer for the thin, clear circle so many people depend on. (Via NovartisGoogle)

This new partnership will fuse Novartis' expertise in biology and Google's ability to produce cutting-edge technology on a miniature scale. Bloomberg explains the project's key goals. (Via Novartis)

"The lenses will be able to monitor insulin levels for people with diabetes and offer focus for people who can no longer read without glasses."

Those currently living with diabetes must continually measure their glucose levels, which is normally done with a blood test. However, Google notes the same glucose can also be measured in our tears, something a smart contact lens could monitor around the clock. (Via Novartis)

Ideally, all of the information processed by the smart contact lens could be sent wirelessly to a connected device, like your smartphone, and displayed in an app. (Via Google)

In a press release, Novartis said, "This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye."

Meanwhile, both companies hope to develop a smart contact lens that will assist more practical vision problems, like improving focus or cataract treatment.

Novartis is the parent company of Alcon, the eye-care manufacturer working with Google. Mashable reports it produces some of the "most-widely used contact lens products on the market, including Air Optix, FreshLook and Dailies."

There's a bit of irony in the push for a smart contact lens while Google's most talked-about tech, Google Glass, remains unable to give better vision or health metrics to users. Although there has been a push to use Glass in the health care industry, the tech is mainly used to explore what's outside your body, not in it.

This announcement also comes on the heels of Babak Parviz's departure from Google. According to CNET, he was one of the leaders behind Google's "ocular" projects such as Google Glass and the Google smart contact lens. Parviz will be joining Amazon next.

There's no reported timeline for the smart contact lens, and the terms of the deal have not been disclosed. Bloomberg speculates the lens could be market-ready by next summer.