NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Google (GOOG) announced last week it was working on a smart contact lens, trying to help people with diabetes by measuring glucose levels in tears using a wireless chip. Sounds pretty futuristic, huh? Not at all, if you know anything about physics.
Google has been pretty busy lately, with its own projects and acquiring those of others. The company is working on driverless cars and Google Glass, and recently announced it was buying Nest, the smart smoke alarm and thermostat company, for $3.2 billion in cash.
In Physics of the Future, author Michio Kaku maps out some of the these things. To give away the book would do it a disservice, but I can tell you that Kaku predicted that glasses and contact lenses would be connected to the Internet. He also predicted cars would become driverless, all projects Google already is working on. (Disclosure: I've read Physics of the Future for my own knowledge, but haven't reviewed it).
Google is working on these plans via Google X, the company's secret facility led by Google's co-founder Sergey Brin that works on top-secret projects. Google noted that it's in talks with the Food and Drug Administration on the contact lens project and there's plenty of more work to do, both from Google and others.
"We're not going to do this alone: We plan to look for partners who are experts in bringing products like this to market," the company said in a blog post. The company also said Google X seeks "... out projects that seem a bit speculative or strange, and at a time when the International Diabetes Federation (PDF) is declaring that the world is 'losing the battle' against diabetes, we thought this project was worth a shot."
Though Google is garnering lots of publicity surrounding the smart contact lens, it's not the only company to have worked on one. Microsoft (MSFT) worked on a functional contact lens a couple of years ago. Babak Parviz, the co-founder of Google's smart contact lens initiative, worked on the same project for Microsoft.
There are other companies that have tried to approach the non-invasive glucose monitoring market, to no avail. Fovioptics, worked on something similar, developing
a non-invasive glucose monitor that read blood glucose level by shining a light into a patient's eye. Ultimately, the company decided there was no market for this, shut down, and returned money to investors.
Even if Google is successful, it's going to be expensive, notes David Kliff, publisher of the Diabetic Investor newsletter. "I can't imagine the regulatory mess from this," Kliff said in a phone interview. "Even if you can get it to work, which by no means is a certainty, the regulatory path is at least two years, maybe longer."
With the advent of the microchip, technology has become faster, more powerful and cheaper, due primarily to Moore's Law. Moore's Law, which comes from Intel's (INTC) co-founder Gordon Moore, states that the the number of transistors on circuits will double approximately every two years, making technology more powerful than it was just a few short years ago.
Interestingly enough, Kaku noted that eventually chips will cease to continue doubling in power, due to the nature of Moore's Law. But that's still years away.
Google X, much to no one's surprise, could not be reached for this story.
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