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back to article Now we're cookin' on gas: Google crafts sugar-alert contact lens for diabetics

Google's skunkworks "X" lab is building a contact lens that can monitor glucose levels in the tears of diabetics, and warn them when it drops too low. The wireless-communicating device was unveiled by Google in a blogpost on Thursday, and may also one day contain tiny LEDs that'll light up if the wearer becomes hypoglycemic. " …

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Now this is something truly worthwhile.

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Anonymous Coward

With the growing obesity crisis in the USA and the resultant increase in diabetes is this an altruistic move or do they just see a business opportunity?

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Happy

Why can't it be both?

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Boffin

Given they're talking about hypoglycemia this would seem to be more about type 1 than type 2 diabetes and type 1 diabetes cannot be caused by the poor diet associated with type 2. It is not clear whether or not this can give any sort of accurate mmol reading or if it's just a more simple normal/low indicator without the high detection. Type 2 diabetics tend to have more problems with hyperglycemia than hypoglycemia as they are often not on insulin taken with meals where by far the easiest way to have a problem is by overshooting on the dose you give yourself.

As a type 1 diabetic I look forward to when I can actually get my hands on one of these.

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They are a businesss that needs to pay it's employees, rent on the buildings and so on.

Of course they see a business opportunity.

Just like a company that creates and sells medizine does it for the money as well.

On the other hand, this will benefit a lot of people and might improve their lifes in a big way.

Hence: More power to them.

I hope that many more of their future ventures go back to the old "Do no evil" maxime and help improve all our lifes instead of raising the potential of living in a police state. ^^

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Maybe worthwhile

But!!!!!,,,, don't start to feel so good about google yet.

They only did it because they can make a lot of money off it.

So now goolge will continue to kill you with adverts to make you even fatter & get you unhealthy & diabetic...so they can sell 2 to everyone .......& their pets.

So, In a few years (unless we change our ways) most of the people & their pets

on this planet will be FAT & diabetic.

I am 1 sick son of a bitch.

I wonder why I hate google so much?

Now i will uninstall chrome from all my PCs.

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Hey now, just a minute, Mexico now has recently overtaken us as the most obese country. So I'll thank you to refer to it as the Mexican obesity crisis from here on.

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Glucose in the eye fluid is metabolized differently from the blood

Been there done that. In the late 80's early 90's we found that ocular glucose does not track the blood. A blood track is necessary for both type 1 and 2.

By the way glucose changes very slowly (many minutes) so we simply used near IR LEDs in a pair of glasses to monitor the glucose.

It can also be done directly by smartphone camera with an app and by other simple means WITHOUT putting things in the eye- unless you wear contacts you won't want to.

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obesity know thy litmus

Mexicans may be more obese about the middle but leave it to us Americans to be world leaders in fatheads which at the extreme and given the confines of rock hard skulls inevitably results in pea sized brain matter buried in the fat.

Don't believe? Just listen to Congress and Ted Cruz.

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Meh

Not quite as impressive as this.

As reported by el Reg.

Google is taking OTS tech and stitching it together. ETH have developed a whole new process for this.

The problem with the OTS tech is it's frankly too damm big. It wastes volume and mass on thick substrates that this application does not need.

AIUI this thing will sit "unobtrusively" on your eyeball all day as an early warning/monitoring system. Anything else makes it as cumbersome as present solutions.

My bet is that chip will add significant weight and you will feel it hanging off whatever 'ball it's laid on.

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Anonymous Coward

I presume...

...contacts still fall out?

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Would you put a beta product in your eye?

And you know it'll never get out of beta.

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Re: Would you put a beta product in your eye?

Well, yes I'd put it in for a Beta trial as I don't see it as invasive.

But the real advantage to me isn't the blood suger test. The real advantage is that the LED's can go on to help me find the bloody things when they fall on the floor. Just patent that part alone and they'll be onto a killer product.

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JDX
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Re: Would you put a beta product in your eye?

FDA would require it to be "out of beta" before doctors could recommend it in the US.

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Re: Would you put a beta product in your eye?

Medicine is not short of people with chronic life-threatening diseases who are willing to volunteer to try new treatments. There are people out there with beta products in their hearts and brains. People have beta surgery.

The key thing about this product for type-1 diabetics isn't that it sits on your eye (urgh!) but that it doesn't pierce the skin. They'll leap at this.

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Boffin

Re: Would you put a beta product in your eye?

I suspect there will be a queue if pregnant diabetics for this product.

Diabetes in pregnancy is both harder to control, and much more important if you are not to have an over or underweight child.

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Cynical? Me?

" and may also one day contain tiny LEDs that'll light up if the wearer becomes hypoglycemic and then flash an ad directly to the retina suggesting take "Dr Borgle's Glucose supplement now!" "

To me this use of contact lens technology actually suggests a connection with the development of 'Glass' ,though not one that will be functioning soon.

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They did say

That they were going to partner with other companies on this, so maybe someone else will develop this into a working solution without having to give out your (very) personal information. While I do not doubt that this is going to be where Glass is heading for anyway, for all of the millions of diabetics out there, this might be a godsend. The problem with measuring your glucose levels is that you have no real way of knowing where the levels are heading; they're a one-dimensional point in time. Having your levels checked (reliably) every second would allow for curving, thereby informing the patient if he/she is going up or down.

All negativism aside, I applaud Google for doing research on something that might improve the lives for millions of people in a very tangible way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They did say

Absolutely, it's a good idea. Probably the best that I've heard of on the subject. If it can be made as unobtrusive as ordinary contact lenses, or nearly, it'll be a hit with diabetics. Of course, this being Google, you'd suspect they'd want to do other stuff with the data next, like claim property to everything you see - oh wait, no, that would be Facebook!

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JDX
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Re: They did say

If it's a bona fide medical product, the incredibly strict regulations will mean they can't harvest the data. They would (unusually) make money from selling the product, not the data it generates.

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Joke

But this is Google....

....Your sugar level is dangerously low......

BUY LUCOZADE FROM TESCO....£1 WITH THIS OFFER.

Call NHS DIRECT 0908........

NEW Blood Sugar Level monitors on eBay

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But this is Google....

"BUY LUCOZADE FROM TESCO....£1 WITH THIS OFFER."

I am reminded of the guy in Neal Stephenson's book "The Diamond Age" who committed suicide after his nanotech aural and optical interfaces were hacked to run a annoying spam jingle at one edge of his vision for a chain of sleazy motels - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, eyes closed or open...

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Re: But this is Google....

I am reminded of the guy in Neal Stephenson's book "The Diamond Age" who committed suicide after his nanotech aural and optical interfaces were hacked to run a annoying spam jingle at one edge of his vision for a chain of sleazy motels - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, eyes closed or open...

Banaphone...

*NSFW

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Nya
Thumb Up

About time :)

Nice to see one of the big tech companies doing medical things as for once it'll hopefully shake up the medical companies to actually make something for once instead of sitting on there "expensive research" and doing sod all with it until someone else breaks ranks and makes something similar.

As for the lens, the lights are a start, an actually number would be more handy though (speaking as a diabetic) and not necessarily just covering hypo but also hyperglycaemia and a blood glucose direction rating (many constant glucose monitors use a simple arrow, or multiple arrows if they are moving very rapidly in a certain direction).

A great start Google. Can't wait to see how you do with this :)

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Meh

Okay, but...

Firstly, I myself wear ontact lenses, and even the really thin daily ones get irritating after 5+ hours in them. Your eyes become dry and sore by the end of the day. Unless the diabetic person in question is also short sighted then I don't know whether any one with 20/20 vision would subject themselves to this just so they can be told to eat some sugar.

Secondly, my girlfriend is Diabetic, as is one of my coworkers and also a good friend from university. They have never had difficulty in maintaining their diabetes after their recent "training" that the NHS provided (all of them are Type 1). Importantly, they are all able to naturally feel when their blood sugar is getting too low. I don't know how it works for Type 2 Diabetics, but I know for sure that the people I know wouldn't bother with what is, quite frankly, a little bit redundant and would add even more problems to their lives.

Its commendable that people are trying to develop blood-glucose readers that don't involve extracting your own blood, though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Okay, but...

You're probably right about the contact lenses. I'm diabetic and short-sighted, but won't wear contact lenses as I don't like the feeling in my eyes. Nonetheless, many people I know do.

About the blood glucose, after some years it can get quite tricky to detect a hypoglycemia before it gets so low it affects your concentration. This is especially true if you use genetically produced human insuline, which as far as I know is standard these days. Training sure helps, but only up to a point.

The other thing was mentioned by a commenter further up: Measurement by pricking your finger only gives you a data point. Specially when you're going to sleep after a late supper or so, it can be quite difficult to judge the tendency where it's heading, and the dynamics. Having a large set of previously-recorded curves and the experience from the circumstances under which they were obtained, would give you a better chance to estimate how you should correct any deviation from the optimal blood glucose level. I'd find that very helpful.

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Boffin

Re: Okay, but...

Yes, it's not the instanteous results that are the most interesting it's the constant monitoring that offers the real benefits. I do wonder how the accuracy of this compares to taking a finger prick blood sample - it may well be superior. (One of the problems being that you generally have to wait at least an hour after eating to see the effect reflected).

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Flame

"they are all able to naturally feel when their blood sugar is getting too low."

Type 1 diabetics can lose sensitivity to hypoglycaemia, which is why all sufferers of the condition are advised to test regularly whether they "feel low" or not. Kindly take your magnificently ill-informed opinion about how to control a potentially lethal disease that you do not have and fuck off.

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Re: Okay, but...

> They have never had difficulty in maintaining their diabetes after their recent "training" that the NHS provided

As far as you know. Not everyone talks about it all the time. In my experience, diabetics, like everyone else, prefer to get on with their lives, and telling everyone about every hypo is a way of making their life all about the diabetes. Further, the standard NHS training you refer to is a way of keeping it broadly under control and stopping you dropping dead, but is far from perfect and doesn't even aim to be: if followed really really well, it will enable you to keep your blood sugar below 10 most of the time, whilst a normal person's would be at a steady 5(ish). And most people aren't that good -- obviously: if all it took to successfully treat diabetes was a quick training course, no-one would be bothering with research like this, or with developing the various other superior training courses such as DAFNE. Add to that complicating factors like the effect antibiotics and steroids and other medicines can have on your blood sugar, medicines which counteract insulin, and the extreme danger of getting a vomitting virus while there's still active slow-release insulin in your system, and it's an extremely difficult disease to maintain.

You say that your friends' training was recent, so I'm guessing they're not fully au fait with it all yet. It's quite normal for diabetics to go through a period of denial after diagnosis, which is hardly surprising, as they've just been told that their life expectancy has dropped.

As others have said above, the real boon of this will be continuous data curves. Connect it to an insulin pump, and you'd have a pretty bloody good fake pancreas.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Okay, but...

Seconded on the earlier comments re glucose monitoring and diabetes control - it's tricky and complicated and you need to be doing plenty of blood tests to keep on top of things. That's why continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is such a big deal. However, it's expensive and is generally not available on the NHS.

CGM contact lenses are not a new concept and have actually been around for a number of years in various forms, both passive and active. I'm not normally one to give credit to Microsoft, but it looks like the Google project is actually a continuation of an earlier Microsoft/University of Washington project from 2011 (Babak Parviz named on both).

Competition in the CGM marketplace is to be welcomed - if the researchers can come up with a good product and drive others such as Abbott and MedTronic to innovate and produce better/cheaper products then that's great.

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Unhappy

Re: Okay, but...

"Its commendable that people are trying to develop blood-glucose readers that don't involve extracting your own blood, though."

It's tougher than it looks.

I came across an old "Elektor" magazine from the 70's (among a pile of Dutch magazines) which talked about a huge clumpy thing that you kissed because the blood vessels were thinnest in the lips.

The amount of blood needed seems to have gone down but no one seems to be able to crack the blood glucose measurement at a reasonable price/speed/nafness factor. I thought it'd be a something you could clip on the earlobe and read from the blood optically.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Okay, but...

It's something of an aside, but DAFNE is now widely available on the NHS. It's the default training in many trusts. The nature of our fractured health service and defanged regulatory bodies prevents it from full national rollout, but it is thankfully now common. That training stresses the value of modern technology - particularly using good smartphone apps to count carbs and injection amounts and build a reviewable history. Being able to supplement the 5-6 a day datapoints generated by good ol' finger prints with near-continuous monitoring would be of extreme benefit for Type 1s. Could you imagine the levels of control one could attain with the might of Google's (or whoever) machine learning expertise applied to that kind of dataset? There is incredible potential here, and should not be sniffed at.

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Re: Okay, but... follow the blood glucose

Glucose starts in the blood either from the liver or the bowel to reach the eye (either inner eye or outer surface) where it must be transferred across two or more membranes and pass across or through the eye to the sensor. This is a much slower process then that transfer to brain, heart or other muscles, and it is the latter organs that can be compromised unto death by hypoglycemia.

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Re: Okay, but... follow the blood glucose

True, but that slowness would be offset by the taking of continuous readings. Fingerpricks which give you a more up-to-date reading but which only happen six or so times a day versus slightly behind-the-curve tear-duct readings which happen every second? No contest.

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Big Brother

Rise of the Big Brother machine SKYNET IS ON ITS WAY

Maybe I'm cynical but it wont end here

how long before we are all required to be chipped like our pet dogs / horses ( probably done at birth by the government big Brother).

Insurance company's insisting that in order to get Medical insurance they must have access to this Chip (via wi fi).

Then there is the fear that there would be a secret back door (for NSA / GCHQ ) so big Bro can always spy on you and know where you are. and finally there would be that REMOTE "KILL SWITCH".

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Re: Rise of the Big Brother machine SKYNET IS ON ITS WAY

There are certain people who have been waiting for something like this to happen to payment systems for around 2,000 years but they never quite understood how it would happen...

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Boffin

I've got the power...

What I see no mention of is where is the power source of this thing - it's certainly no battery visible on that picture, nor would any reasonably fit in a contact. My guess is that's a "passive" RFID-type device right now, which would mean it only works as long as you're holding close something blasting it with RF energy. I suppose the frame of some spectacles would work as the antenna coil, but then you'd be wearing both contacts and spectacles, for a person potentially not needing either. Also in question is whether people would mind keeping what is essentially two RFID readers next to their head all day (although to be fair the energy involved is nowhere near cell phone level).

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Re: I've got the power...

Maybe it can be made to run by burning the sugar as fuel. Or by piezoelectricity each time you blink. I think this may be a not-solved detail but it looks like there's a metal ring around the lens that probably receives electrical energy by induction as well as being the radio antenna.

Famously, Google employees (or some of them) get to spend some time working on anything that they think it cool (and is approved), whether it can end up making money or not. I think that's where this comes from and where it is.

But, yes, it probably could also go with the Google Glasses - but they're not on general sale either.

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Cross compatible with Glass?

Done properly this could become an add-on for Glass, with the headset powering the eyeball-mounted sensor wirelessly, like an RFID device, and providing you with 'live' readouts of glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rate- maybe even oxygen levels. With a polarised antenna it may also be possible to determine where you're looking, helping make the Glass UI a bit smarter.

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Silver badge

What about building the tech into a sensor embedded under the skin? Take a quick look at your 'tatoo' and see what your quicksilver sugar levels are like. Any energy required can be harvest from the 'host' and transmitted to some small convienent computer people will keep on their persons for just such an emergancy. Might cause a few false alarms but dangerously low levels (as opposed to signal lost) could cause a message to appear on the computer or contact the emergancy services.

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M7S
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"...to help /snip/ doctors..." Another pre-hospital health professional writes

We're going to need some new conventions, maybe even (gosh) standards:

How bright is this thing going to light up? If I rock up in my ambulance to a "person collapsed, query cause" with red flashing eyes, am I going to have to know that flashing red lenses are hypoglycemia if supplied by Google, of might indicate an MI if (for example) they're from Samsung? Do I look for a trademark? What if Eadon's made his own using Linux and I get it wrong (no, don't all reply to that one :) )

I might not want to get too close, it might in fact be that I'm actually looking at a damaged (but still powered) T800 with a slightly torn ophthalmic camouflage, or if the red effect is rather dull, maybe a human newly infected with Rage.

Also if the nearest and dearest are on scene, saying "my hubby's got these lenses which do X if Y has happened" and X has not happened, I'm still going to have to test for Y just in case the batteries are gone etc. I'm not sure who they will help but outside of a controlled environment it's probably not going to be anyone other than the wearer. Assuming they're in a position to relay the information of course.

That said, as an early warning system for the user, or a means to save people having to test their blood regularly, it might have much to recommend it.

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Better than a poke in the eye...

Or finger, with a sharp stick.

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"an antenna thinner than a human hair."

So what? The average PCB track is about a third of the thickness of a human hair!

Besides which, it looks much wider than a human hair.

Human hairs are really quite thick.

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Joke

Re: "an antenna thinner than a human hair."

Has anyone actually given a human hair an IQ test?

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Coat

Re: "an antenna thinner than a human hair."

"So what? The average PCB track is about a third of the thickness of a human hair!"

I think not.

Last time I checked the average human hair is 2 thou or 50 micrometres wide.

The usual width for a PCB data track is 75 micrometres.

Dropping standard PCB widths that far would cause a massive amount of trouble in the PCB industry.

Yes it's an anorak.

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Now if they could only build

An 8K HD 3D display into them.

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SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!

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Great idea.

Measuring glucose levels this way has about half an hour lag behind measuring blood, but still very usable if you're looking at frequent daily tests. Especially so that this method is non-invasive, or at least near enough.

Unfortunately, there have been several attempts to boot products like this, and they've all failed for one reason or another.

Let's hope Google succeeds. And perhaps the next revision will be the Google Glass v2. No more getting booked while driving, or purving, or anything.

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Contact lens made of glass aren't very comfortable

Nor can they be worn 24x7 like extended wear contacts made of plastic since they don't allow enough oxygen to the cornea.

Maybe a future version will allow making it out of a polymer like 99% of contact lenses are today, but this version at least has limitations that would only be tolerated by people with very severe forms of diabetes. It is more convenient than having a service dog that alerts when your blood sugar is low (like one diabetic I know)

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Unhappy

Re: Contact lens made of glass aren't very comfortable

"Nor can they be worn 24x7 like extended wear contacts made of plastic since they don't allow enough oxygen to the cornea."

All true.

But all irrelevant.

Perhaps you should read the article first.

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