Future Tech

Will LED Contact Lenses Make Google Glass Obsolete?

Philip Bates 05-01-2015

Even though it’s not commonplace yet, Google Glass is already old news. Google is working on a new smart contact lens project.


Announced in January 2014, a contact lens which displays information is both an intimidating and amazing thought. It feels like something from science fiction, conjuring up images of the Terminator and Bionic Woman.

This technology, perhaps Google Glass’ successor, is just around the corner.

How It Works

This isn’t a new idea: Babak Parviz, a major driving force behind Google Glass, was working on a lens-based concept back in 2008, theorising how optoelectronic components could aid a central display made from hundreds of LEDs.

Though he can also see a point to less complex displays – even a single pixel, he argues, could “aid people with impaired hearing or be incorporated as an indicator into computer games” – Parviz can see great potential in presenting images and information, especially when connected to the Internet.

In its simplest form, an antenna would pick up RF (Radio Frequency) emissions, transform them through Integrated Circuits, only a few nanometres in thickness, and convert that into voltage to power the LEDs via a chip.


Information – images, charts, or text – is then displayed on Fresnel Lenses, micro lens used for diffraction and reflection to help the retina focus, integrated in the actual contact lens, made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

One of the main issues currently is the size of the antenna: obviously its context limits its size and thus limits its function. Having to fit in with both the physiognomy of the eye and the minute qualities of the lens, present antenna designs are around 5mm in radius, and 0.5mm wide. However, this can only collect a narrow amount of data – and its proximity to a transmitter also restricts its capabilities.

What’s Wrong With Google Glass (And Similar Products)?

So far, the world hasn’t taken to Google Glass. That’s probably because it’s far too expensive to become as standard as, say, a $299 64GB iPhone. When we reviewed it, it wasn’t a bad experience Google Glass Review and Giveaway We were lucky enough to get a pair of Google Glass to review, and we're giving it away! Read More . It was cool and at least somewhat functional (though there was definitely a problem with battery life). But frankly, it wasn’t worth it. Yet.


There were very mixed responses across the Internet What The Internet Really Thinks Of Google Glass [Weird & Wonderful Web] This week in Weird & Wonderful Web, we take a look at what the Internet really thinks of Google Glass. Some people are in love with this futuristic device, others hate it. What about you? Read More – that includes MakeUseOf readers Is Google Glass the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread? [MUO Debates] Join us as Justin and Matt face off in a debate about whether or not Google Glass is the next big thing that's going to transform the world of technology and mobile applications. Read More – but there will always be cynics. That hasn’t stopped Google ploughing on and creating apps which they maintain will be 100% ad-free.

Perhaps the main argument against Google Glass is: what’s the point?!

That might sound unfair; it does have its uses beyond looking a bit geeky and futuristic. Not all Glass wearers will be involved in car accidents. And you can now (obviously in select opticians) buy prescription spectacles with Google Glass as an added – and pricey – extra.

The contact lens project, however, has a major advantage…


Medical Applications


The so-called ‘bionic’ contact lens isn’t just a means of entertainment. When Google first introduced the idea, it was said to aid those with diabetes. Diabetes is incurable and Google describes it as “like having a part-time job.”

Those with Type 1 diabetes have to prick their fingers to analyse their blood sugar levels. It can be a painful and irritating thing to do: some feel like “human pin cushions”, some rebel against it, and others keep forgetting. It’s especially a problem amongst teenagers.

That’s why there is ongoing research into how glucose can be measured, the most likely candidate so far being analysing tears.


Google is investigating how a minute glucose monitor and wireless chip could be suspended between two layers of PET. By integrating LEDs into this circuit, diabetics could see an imbalance in the central display and potentially get an ‘early warning.’

There may be further medical applications too. Could, for instance, smart technology contact lenses aid those with colour deficiencies? Colour blindness can be a hindrance in everyday life, especially if you’re interested in art or electronics! Some countries also stop those suffering from colour blindness from obtaining a driving license, mainly for fears about traffic lights.

There’s no treatment for colour blindness. But there are filters, glasses, and contact lenses available to increase brightness and contrast between colours. It’s not that hard to imagine that similar concepts could be applied through ‘bionic’ lenses.

Nonetheless, these filters can often disorientate people with colour deficiencies, so development might not be advantageous. Colour blindness often doesn’t bother those ‘suffering’ from it!

Will They Really Succeed Google Glass?

Whether these new contact lenses replace Google Glass depends on whether people take up new technology. Google Glass has suffered for its high price point, meaning it’s not been adopted by the mainstream. That won’t last though. Eventually, Google Glass might become as commonplace as tablets.

Regardless, they’re controversial. People feel they’re just a device for being monitored. One writer in San Francisco was even attacked for merely showing someone how they worked. At least contact lenses are more subtle and probably won’t get you assaulted Luddites Attacking? Being A Techie Could Be Dangerous Three shocking stories where people have attacked gadget loving techies . Are these anti-technology Luddites with anger issues, or justified privacy-rights activists? Read More . That doesn’t mean the idea isn’t unsettling…

The contact lenses are arguably more useful, particularly for diabetics. Surely that’s the USP? Google were obviously keen to stress the medical benefits. Then again, many are squeamish and simply won’t put contact lenses in.

Personally, I can’t see them taking hold of the world, but a certain section of society will very likely adopt the technology. Maybe ‘bionic’ contact lenses won’t succeed Google Glass (and similar products) but it’s quite likely the two will go hand-in-hand.

Would you try LED contact lenses? Do you prefer Google Glass? Or do both ideas make your skin crawl? Let us know below!

Image Credits: Contact Lense By Andy Simmons.

Related topics: Google Glass, Health.

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  1. ducky
    January 8, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    My immediate thought was "well, unless I really had to, I'd rather have the glasses than the contacts, because only one of those involves poking myself in the eye." I realize this is oversimplifying the entire situation, but. Yeah.

    • Philip Bates
      January 30, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      As you say, it does appear to be oversimplifying it - but I agree. I've turned down contact lenses in the past because I couldn't (essentially) touch my own eyeball. Nonetheless, potential medical applications in particular are incredible, and the whole idea of it is something to marvel at.

  2. Joe E
    January 7, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    There's nothing "wrong" with Google Glass itself--it didnt "fail" as others have reported--because it's a social and cultural experiment that's still ongoing.

    The problem, however, is that there aren't enough people who realize this and they're unfortunately on both sides of Glass' prism. The early (-versus-current) expectations and experiences of Google Explorers of Glass differ greatly than those from open beta "Glass Users".

    This trait is something Ive greatly attribute to the user's "attitude" as highly influenced by (and interconnected with) a person's socio-cultutal context.

  3. bben
    January 6, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    People currently wear contact lenses to correct vision problems - the Google contact lens will be an extension of this allowing even more vision and other problems to be addressed. Plus, some vision features may be enhanced - magnification on demand. Then, once this use is accepted by most people, the stuff from the current google glass could be integrated into the lenses.

  4. Phil N
    January 5, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    It's not even the same type of device as Glass, how could it even have any affect?

    • Bob
      January 6, 2015 at 11:22 am

      @Phil N ... that's like saying the motor car is not even the same device as a horse - how could it have any affect.