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Google plans smart eye implants

The Google product in development is a smart lens. The lens is designed for those with eyesight problems, and it is implanted into the eye for long-term rather than the daily use of a contact lens.

Although Google filed a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2014 for the lens, no details were released to the public. This week, Google have provided some interesting detail.

The lens is described as being constructed from a “flexible polymeric material” (which means having the properties of a polymer, the basis of synthetic plastics). The information goes onto state that the lens “can be installed within a shaped to conform to the inside surface of a lens capsule of an eye.”

Where the Google technology comes in is that ordinary function of the eye muscles to improve focus (termed “accommodation”) would act on the optical power of the device, altering it according to the required application. This would occur via a sensor within the device that is capable of sensing the eye’s focusing efforts. The sensor then controls the amount of power transferred to the lens.

It is hoped that the smart lens will address eye conditions associated with decreased accommodation, focus, or degradation of images presented to the retina. Examples of eye conditions that the device could treat include presbyopia. This is a condition associated with aging in which the eye exhibits a progressively diminished ability to focus on near objects. In addition, cataracts, removed by surgery, could be replaced by the lenses. Furthermore, for those who wear glasses, the lens should allow wearers to read unaided.

Little detail has been provided about the lens. However, it is known, via a review by QMed, that the lens is formed from liquid crystal elements and it responds when an electronic signal is applied to it. Wireless capability is possible.

To develop the lens, a Google company called Verily is working alongside a subsidiary of Novartis called Alcon. No timescales as to when the lens will be available have been provided, although given Google’s announcement news is expected later this year.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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