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SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine a world where you meet a friend for lunch, blink your eye to take a picture, post that picture to social media, and tag it — all on a display projected directly into your eye.
You do not need to look down at your phone even once to accomplish this. After lunch, you receive a notice through your contact lens that your blood sugar levels are high and you adjust your medication accordingly.
Admittedly, this reads like science fiction, so many may be surprised to find that "smart" contact lenses are in development now and could be available to purchase in the near future. They are part of a of new generation of wearable technology that is in preparation for release.
Samsung and Google are pioneers in the field of smart contact lenses and both address different needs and a different customer base with their respective products. The patent for Samsung’s lens, according to Newsweek, reveals a built-in camera, a display that projects directly into the eye, and sensors that pick up blinks and eye movement.
Details on the specific capabilities of the product are not immediately available, but technology enthusiasts speculate in an article from "The Guardian" that this device could provide an augmented reality experience in which the internet overlays a user’s field of vision. This type of wearable technology is more likely to be embraced and used by today’s consumers than the clunky, failed Google Glass.
Google’s own smart contact lens is in development by the company's secretive Google X labs. Google, in an official blog, announced that its lens will help in the “daily struggle” of diabetics to control their blood sugar levels.
Google’s lens measures blood glucose levels using tears and has tiny LED lights surrounding the lens that light up and become visible when glucose levels reach certain thresholds. Google’s smart lens has the ability to take a reading per second, which gives users unprecedented access to changing blood glucose levels.
Constant readings result in immediate feedback on how effectively treatment controls blood sugar levels, thereby controlling the user’s diabetes. Google’s lens technology is groundbreaking, but it is also simply expanding on an existing market of health and fitness wearables.
Other wearable progress
Health and fitness wearable technology leads the emergent wearable industry with a projected 56 percent of total sales in the segment or 17.4 million devices sold in 2016. Fitness tracker manufacturers Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin and others provide a line of wearables to track limited aspects of user health and fitness. These devices primarily focus on activity, heart rate and sleep patterns. Based on the popularity of these wearables, many users find the limited information provided by these devices useful.
However, there is a need for health and fitness wearable technology to provide more detailed information on a user’s well-being. A team at the University of California, Berkeley meets that need and takes health and fitness tracking to the next level with a new wearable sensor.
Berkeley’s new sensor, worn on the wrist or forehead, analyzes and provides feedback on users' physiological conditions gathered from their sweat. Sweat gives much of the same physiological feedback that invasive blood tests provide, but without the needles.
Berkeley’s sensor provides more frequent results than scheduled blood tests and gives users the ability to make health-related daily changes to regimen using an expansive set of data that other health and fitness wearables currently do not track. Data gathered by the sensor may give advanced warning of serious medical conditions and allow the user to initiate treatment with their doctor sooner.
The future of wearable technology sounds like it is contrived straight from the pages of a science fiction novel — and some of it may well have been. Regardless, advances in wearable technology will change the way we see and access information in the future. It will have direct impact on technology-driven social interactions, increased levels of connectivity, and may significantly impact understanding of individual health and fitness.
Dave Palmer is a self styled "tech nerd" and an Army combat veteran who, when not writing, works as a regional manager for a staffing company. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org