Microsoft Research is collaborating with researchers from the University of Washington to develop a "smart" contact lens that can directly transmit digital information to the wearer's eye.
The Functional Contact Lens project is part of Microsoft's endeavor to create natural user interfaces that make interacting with electronic devices like computers as seamless as possible. The joint project between Senior Researcher Desney Tan and his Computational User Experiences group at Microsoft and Professor Babak Parviz and his Bio-Technology group will give users a contact lens that will transmit glucose levels wirelessly to the user's eye.
"We've been able to put a glucose sensor on a contact lens and show that it can detect glucose at levels that are found in the tear film," explains Parviz in a promotional video from Microsoft Research.
"Our broader group has actually designed and built small radios that can interface with this glucose sensor and send out information wirelessly."
The team designed and built a prototype lens that is more advanced than current means of reporting glucose levels. The lens has an imbedded LED display, a wireless data communications link and a power harvesting unit. Although it would be wonderful if the lens could be used to watch videos on Netflix, it is geared towards a more medical use.
The contact lens will be a means of diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels. Sufferers of Type 1 diabetes require several checks of their blood sugar levels a day and these are usually done with a needle. With the Functional Contact Lens patients can avoid this painful and invasive procedure.
"What is inside the blood, to a degree, appears on the surface of the eye," Parviz explained.
"So there is a reflection of the body chemistry directly on the surface of the eye. If you have a contact lens that can sample that surface, analyse it, and maybe send out the information through a radio, this contact lens, in principle, can give us information about what's happening inside the body without actually going into the body or collecting a blood sample."
The Functional Contact Lens will interact with the enzymes in the eye's tear fluid. As the enzyme reacts, bio-compatible electrodes on the lens take specific measurements by observing the change in current.
The lens would record information about the blood-glucose level of the patient for review by physicians. The team is looking to develop the contact lens to automatically display alerts abnormal glucose levels directly in the wearer's view.
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