Contacts: The Next Wearable Technology

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WHEN THE FUTURE OF WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY IS ADDRESSED, COMPANIES SUCH AS APPLE AND SAMSUNG ARE FOCUSING ON THE WRIST AND MC10 ON THE SKIN, BUT GOOGLE, ALONG WITH VUZIX AND SONY ARE FOCUSING ON THE EYE WITH THE CREATION OF SMART EYEWEAR.

“Smart eyewear is a term used to define a type of wearable technology such as Google Glass. It can encompass anything with a HUD (heads-up display) such as Glass, which connects to your Smartphone, incorporates voiceactivated commands, and offers access to the Internet,” said VSP Global’s Innovation Strategist, Jay Sales who is at the forefront of a lot of the research underway at VSP through their innovation lab, ‘The Shop’.

Smart eyewear in particular is an exciting new platform that stands poised to empower individuals to take control of their contextual personal health in ways they never have before,” said Sales. Google was given a chance to implement its eyewear technology in the healthcare field, launching into the digital healthcare market by signing a deal with pharmaceutical company Novartis to bring their digital contact lens technology to market.

“As we’ve just signed a deal with Novartis to bring our lens technology to market, we’re heads down in the lab and don’t have any updates to share at this time,” said Katelin Jabbari of Google Global Communications and Public Affairs. The Novartis-Google smart lenses have chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter and an antenna thinner than a human hair that can measure the glucose in tears. This technology can provide diabetics with an alternative to finger pricking to test blood sugar levels.

EMPOWERING

“The eyes are windows into our overall health,” noted Sales adding wearable technology is an important= direction for eyewear. “ By empowering individuals with wearable technology, like a pair of smart frames, we could move from a model of health insurance to health assurance.”

Eye exams provide the only noninvasive view of blood vessels and the optic nerve. As a result, eye doctors can detect early signs of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol before any other healthcare provider.

“At VSP, we’re excited about what’s on the horizon for this platform as it relates to health assurance. Imagine an enhanced frame with sensors that can help the wearer monitor their health in real time and synch the data with a doctor for more seamless health management. The possibilities for predictive and preventative care—via the eyes—are incredible,” said Sales. Google isn’t the only company that sees a future in digital contact lenses. Swiss company, Sensimed AG, has developed a contact lens-based solution to measure the intraocular pressure that results from the liquid buildup in the eyes of glaucoma patients, while Innovega has developed lenses that interact with full HD (high definition) glasses.

>>>> THE FUTURE

It’s hard to say exactly what exactly will be possible for the future capabilities of smart eyewear and digital contact lenses. However, “by understanding the types of diseases that can be detected through the eyes today, it’s plausible to imagine a future where smart eyewear could monitor things like hypertension and cholesterol; track glucose levels; or even watch for early onset of Alzheimer’s,” said Sales.

He added that, “On a more basic level, an enhanced frame could help the wearer track their steps and keep tabs on posture and gait. Another scenario could be that of a post-op heart surgery patient. If the patient and their doctor could monitor cardiovascular changes in real time through a wearable device, rather than via weekly or monthly checkups, this could free up the patient and the healthcare systems as a whole to manage care to others in need.”

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