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Google's latest smart eyewear: Diabetes-monitoring contact lenses

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Google is moving beyond Google Glass in its search for smart eyewear, the company announced on Thursday. In this case, though, the research being done by Google's X Labs isn't about making a consumer device; instead it is about helping solve the needs of people suffering from one of the growing global health problems: diabetes.

One of the biggest problems for those trying to control their glucose levels, whether they have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, is monitoring their glucose levels. For most people, this means they have to prick their finger and test their blood. The idea of the smart contact lens is to monitor the glucose in a person's tears, as often as once every second.

The chips and sensors are so small they look like glitter, and the antenna thinner than a human hair. Google is investigating the integration of LEDs into the system, which light up if the glucose levels in a person's tears have dropped below or risen above certain levels. While admitting the technology is in relative infancy, Google has already completed multiple clinical research studies. They are currently in discussions with the FDA.

Unlike Glass, Google doesn't intend to bring this to the market on its own. Instead, the company plans to work with partners who could bring such a smart contact lens to market, as well as developing monitoring apps for the patient and their doctor.

The blog post announcing the research was written by Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, the project co-founders. Although Parviz was also a founder of the Google Glass project, Otis is quick to note that this new project is entirely separate from Google Glass.

The International Diabetes Federation says that 380 million people currently suffer -- globaly -- with diabetes. That is more than the entire population of the U.S. It estimate that the number could rise above 590 million by 2035.

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