The American Optician

Spring 2017

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1 8 EYE ON DIGITAL WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY Enhancing the body's abilities with devices is nothing new. For example, people use eyeglasses or contact lenses to improve their sight, wear shoes to protect their feet, utilize hearing aids to enhance hearing, etc. What is new is the incorporation of miniaturized digital wearable technology that brings a host of amazing new abilities to human enhancing devices. Alcon's "smart lens" is a good ophthalmic example of this. ALCON AND GOOGLE PARTNERSHIP In July 2014, Alcon (the ophthalmic division of Novartis) announced an agreement with Google, Inc. to license its "smart lens" digital technology for all ocular medical uses. The intention of this collaboration is to work on products that could bring "…substantial vision and health benefits to contact lens and intraocular lens wearers." Working with a team at Google named Google X, the joint team has been working on a contact lens that has "…non-invasive sensors, microchips and other miniaturized electronics …" embedded into it. Novartis' two areas of focus for this project are to help patients with diabetes and presbyopes. For diabetics, Move over smart glasses, smart contact lenses are on the way! Google's collaboration with Alcon is creating a contact lens that can monitor the tears for a number of issues and report measurements to a smart phone wirelessly. it foresees the device continually monitoring the glucose level in their tears. A chip in the contact lens would send the information to a smart phone or other wireless device that would provide readings anytime. That means diabetics wouldn't have to prick a finger multiple times each day for a reading. For presbyopes, the objective is to create an accommodating contact lens that essentially restores the accommodation lost due to aging. This technology could also be used in an intraocular lens implanted after cataract surgery. Of course, these lenses will be capable of many more functions than the ones mentioned above. For example, measuring body temperature, measuring alcohol level and urea levels. In late January 2017, Google applied for patents that indicated many more uses for these lenses. This YouTube video provides an in-depth look at the current state of this project. SHARP, SAMSUNG, SONY AND MORE Google isn't the only company working on a contact lens like this. Sharp has a project named IGZO aimed at monitoring blood glucose levels. On April 5, 2017, Samsung submitted a patent for a contact lens that will have a tiny display, a camera, an antenna, and a number of sensors. The device will communicate with a smart phone wirelessly. The display will project images into the eye. Think of these contact lenses as "on the eye" display screens for your smart phone. Sony, Microsoft and a research team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology are also interested in this space. Sensimed Trigger Fish is working on a contact lens intended for glaucoma patients. Keep your eyes on this project—it's going to create a paradigm shift in corrective lenses. Ed De Gennaro is Editor Emeritus for First Vision Media Group.

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