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Google’s new ‘smart contact lens’ project began at UW, with help from Microsoft


Google bought plenty of consideration Thursday with the information that it’s testing a “sensible contact lens” that may monitor glucose — a breakthrough with the potential to vary the lives of thousands and thousands of individuals with diabetes by giving them a new, high-tech means of maintaining tabs on their blood-sugar ranges.

Most individuals reading the official blog post would get the impression that this project was born inside Google. However the historical past is definitely extra sophisticated than that.

The thought really originated at the College of Washington in Seattle, the place the Google project co-founders named in Thursday’s submit, researchers Babak Parviz and Brian Otis, labored on {the electrical} engineering college earlier than becoming a member of Google’s superior analysis lab.

And that earlier incarnation of the project, funded by the Nationwide Science Basis, obtained help and collaboration from none aside from Microsoft, as announced in this blog post from the Redmond firm two years in the past (and noted by a reader on our earlier post about the Google project).

The scenario is fascinating on plenty of ranges. It reveals Google’s uncanny capability to generate buzz — making headlines by asserting primarily the identical factor that Microsoft introduced two years in the past. It could additionally reinforce the notion that Microsoft as an organization isn’t doing sufficient to grab new alternatives and capitalize on the work of its analysis group.

We’ve contacted Microsoft to see if it has something to say about Google’s announcement. (See replace under.)

In actuality, the concept of measuring glucose by way of sensor on a contact lens has been round for a few years. Nonetheless, Google factors out that it has damaged new floor within the course of of making a working prototype, now being examined in medical research.

A Google spokesperson tells us that the sensible contact lens expertise now being examined by the corporate was really constructed from scratch. In growing the present prototype, the corporate wanted to determine a means to make use of industry-standard supplies to make sure that the lenses might really be worn. Google additionally wanted to guarantee that the sensor might function for a number of hours a day, and that the wi-fi chip may very well be constructed with off-the-shelf elements.

College of Washington pc science professor Ed Lazowska notes that the unique work on glucose-sensing contact lenses was completed at the UW by a graduate pupil, Claire Yao, who additionally now works at Google. Yao constructed the unique prototype within the UW’s Washington Nanofabrication Facility.

One fascinating query is whether or not Google’s work on sensible contact lenses might contribute to future variations of its Google Glass augmented-reality expertise. A Seattle-area firm, Innovega, is using contact lenses to enable an immersive augmented reality experience together with glasses. Parviz, one of many Google sensible contact lens project co-founders, can be one of many leaders of the Glass project.

In a Washington Post article earlier today, the opposite Google contact lens project co-founder, Otis, defined why the previous UW researchers took their work to the Google[x] lab. “You’ll be able to take it to a sure degree in an educational setting, however at Google we got the latitude to take a position on this project,” he stated.

In some ways, all of that is nonetheless educational. The Washington Submit notes that the glucose-detecting contacts aren’t anticipated to be obtainable to customers for at least 5 years.

One problem is that the easy pin prick — as painful as it may be — has historically confirmed extra dependable in detecting glucose than high-tech, non-invasive options. However for the sake of thousands and thousands of diabetics, right here’s hoping Google (or Microsoft or another person) can lastly carry this contact lens thought to market.

Replace, Friday afternoon: Desney Tan, the Microsoft researcher who labored on the project, addressed the topic in a blog post this afternoon. He writes, partly …

What’s occurred right here is a good instance of why we and others should proceed to put money into primary analysis, pushing the boundaries of science and expertise in an effort to enhance the lives of as many individuals as attainable. More often than not right here at Microsoft, we do that in partnership with our enterprise group colleagues, who can take direct benefit of our work and ship it on to our clients. However there are different situations the place we do that by way of companions, and typically even by way of opponents. Our open analysis and deeply collaborative mannequin permits us to work with the perfect educational and industrial researchers around the globe, and we are going to proceed to take action as we actually imagine within the philosophy that “we” is smarter than “me.” This open method to working with and thru others has constantly delivered outsized rewards for Microsoft and for the world at giant.

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