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Google Working on Embedding a Camera in a Contact Lens

Google, apparently not content with its Glass device, is now embedding a tiny camera in a contact lens, according to a recently disclosed patent application. Essentially, wearers will not have to ask, "Do you see what I see?" They'll be able to show them.

This is not the first improvement to contact lenses that Google has proposed. Back in January  the search giant unveiled a contact lens with an embedded glucose meter that could actually be useful for diabetics.

The 'smart' part of this new lens will allow it to process image data and perform other functions locally or via a remote device. A patent application filed in 2012, recently published by the US Patent and Trademark Office, describes a contact lens that includes an embedded circuit, camera, and sensor. The control circuit, the application states, could be wired or linked wirelessly to the camera and sensor. The sensor could be a light sensor, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, or electrical field sensor.

Google Contact lens

Google's smart contact lens may include camera, glucose meter, or both (Courtesy Google Inc.)

Google says that the lens could take raw image from a contact lens, process it and relay what it sees to a blind wearer via a different sense--perhaps an audio warning that there is a car approaching an intersection, for example. It might also be possible to build in a zoom capability, Google says. Facial recognition software hinted at could also allow cops to compare the faces of passersby with a database of mugshots.

In a parallel development, the patent application for the contact lens mounted glucose meter has also surfaced, and it would seem that the company is moving forward with the development of this technology.

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But given Google's known willingness to make use of the data it collects, the Washington Post's Hayley Tsukayama spoke with Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, who was briefed on the lens by Google's people. Hall said that Google had assured him that the data would not be added to the company's data banks of personal information gathered from its other services.

"The data will never hit Google's servers," he told Tsukayama. "That's a forward-thinking affirmative claim that they're making. That is important."

Given the sensitive nature of the data, Hall said, Google has also said it will make sure any data transferred from the lens cannot be manipulated -- something that could have potentially fatal consequences if patients inject the wrong amount of insulin.

dGoogle contact lens patent
A patent diagram showing Google's smart contact lens with an integrated camera.

Stephen Levy is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.

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