Google wants to power a contact lens wearable with solar power

Through the looking glass.
Through the looking glass.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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In the future, your wearables might be a bit harder to spot than an Apple Watch or Google Glass. In a patent awarded Oct. 13, Google outlined a design for a wearable communication device, replete with sensors, memory and a microprocessor, shaped like a contact lens.

This lens would at least be partially powered by what the patent calls “optical signals.” In theory, a tiny photodetector and solar cells could harvest light signals from an external source, that could then be converted into electrical power. According to the patent, this would allow the lens to be powered by camera flashes (however blinding that might be for the wearer) and ambient sunlight.

patent drawing
The lens, being powered by another device.
Image: US Patent and Trademark Office

The patent suggests that the contact lens could send information back to another device about the wearer’s temperature or blood-alcohol level. It could sense the environment around it, with the patent suggesting that the lens would be able to tell if there were allergens in the air, or other “hazardous materials.” The patent adds that the lens would be able to communicate with computers or mobile devices, and potentially read information from a range of objects, including price tags.

While there are both flexible solar panels, and small solar panels, there hasn’t yet been a wearable that has implemented this sort of energy technology, let alone on something a tiny as a contact lens. And there’s no guarantee that Google is actually building this technology yet, though the lens does sound like an extension of another Google lens project, which aims to help diabetics track their glucose levels, and apparently charges through radio frequency.

Google wasn’t immediately available for comment. We’ll have to see it to believe it.