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Google X Marks The Spot On ‘Smart’ Contact Lenses

Had enough of self-driving cars and high-altitude Internet-service balloons? Google has its next “moon shot”—smart contact lenses intended to help diabetics manage their condition, the company announced on Thursday.

The tiny contact lens uses a wireless chip attached to a glucose sensor that measures glucose levels in tears. The project is being developed by the secretive Google X arm of the search giant, where moonshot ideas like Google Glass and Project Loon are formed.

Development of Google’s smart contact lenses is separate from Glass, project lead Brian Otis said in an interview with Re/code, though Glass project founder Babak Parviz is also a part of the smart contact lens endeavor.

Google isn’t the first technology corporation to try and create smart contact lenses. As Tom Warren at the Verge points out, Microsoft was researching and developing an almost identical project as early as 2011. Interestingly, Parviz and his bio-nanotechnology group at the University of Washington, where he was a professor at the time, led the smart contact lens project at Microsoft.

It’s important to note that these lenses don’t exist for consumers yet. Google said it is still in discussions with the FDA and there is a significant amount of work to be done before anyone starts using these lenses outside of controlled clinical trials. The company also said it plans to look for partners who will help bring the product to market in the future. 

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