Everything You Need to Know About Smart Contact Lenses
You’ve heard about smart phones and smart homes, but did you know the most recent clever invention is smart contact lenses?
In 2014, Verily (formerly known as Google Life Sciences) was the company that pioneered the smart contact lens, which was designed to help diabetics measure the glucose level in tears. However, at that early stage of innovation, experts concluded that blood glucose levels could not be measured accurately from tears.
And it was back to the drawing board.
Not surprisingly, the drive for smart lens technology was the next big thing, and tech companies continued to focus on developing a microscopic circuit that could provide real-time medical diagnostics, administer drugs, or generate a virtual display in a contact lens.
How Smart Lenses Work
Smart lenses are basically wearable technology. You wear them just like you would wear a normal contact lens. There are basic smart contact lenses and advanced smart contacts currently in development. The basic lens sits on top of the eye lens and has a microscopic circuit around the edges that record information or release medication. The basic smart contact lens will contain micro versions of technology and may be designed for specific applications.
The advanced smart lens requires surgery. The advanced lens replaces your existing lens and is more robust and permanent. The technologies contained within the lens include:
- Auto-focusing lens
- Data Storage
- Task-specific sensors
These technologies will be used to detect diseases such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and retinal detachment and send the information to a recorder.
In the future, the smart lens technology may be used to see in the dark, record and store video, or zoom focus on objects in addition to correcting long-sightedness or near-sightedness. More recently, Sony has been working on a smart contact lens that converts eye movement into electrical power.
Smart Lenses Detect Eye Disease
The most immediate and important use of smart lenses is for the detection of illness.
Disease and illness are often first detected in the eye, so it makes sense to develop a technology that monitors the health of the eye and can detect early signals. For example, the Swiss technology company Sensimed developed the Triggerfish contact lens; a lens that detects tiny fluctuations in ocular pressure. This particular lens was developed to detect glaucoma. Patients simply wear the lens for 24 hours and the data collected from the eye is sent to an antenna worn around the eye, which sends the information to a recorder.
The information collected from the eye is used for prescribing glaucoma medications, but the major benefit lies in the diagnosis. The intraocular pressure (IOP) of the eye fluctuates dramatically, and when doctors measure the IOP, it may measure low, but it could become high when the patient walks around. An accurate measurement of IOP is crucial, because a high IOP leads to optic nerve damage. More than 400,000 Canadians are affected by glaucoma and early detection can address and arrest the development of this eye disorder. Of course, it’s not just glaucoma that the smart lens can detect. The technology will also be used for sodium detection, cholesterol detection, and alcohol detection.
Smart Contacts and Medication
In addition to detection, smart contact lenses are also slow release drug dispensers. Theraoptix is a corrective soft contact lens that included a tiny strip of polymer filled with drugs. When worn, the drugs seep through the film and into the eye. This lens may be used to treat glaucoma or eye injuries, and because the medication is released directly into the eye, it is more likely to reach the back of the eye, which means this may be more effective in the treatment of macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy and could be an alternative to intraocular injections.
Can You Buy Smart Lenses?
Not yet, currently all smart lenses are still in the development and testing stage, but watch out for them in the next few years. The forecast is that the global smart lens market will reach USD 2,860.50 Million in 2025.