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One diabetic’s take on Google’s Smart Contact Lenses

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One in 19 people on this planet have diabetes. I am one.

About four to six times a day I am reminded of many things — my genetics, my disgusting smoking habit (which I have kicked) and my (now modified) terrible eating habits that have led me to where I am today. I prick the skin on one of my fingers, take a droplet of blood, put it on a tiny strip that is attached to my AccuCheck Glucose meter, and make a note in a little black book. At some point during the day I have to take insulin shots so I can get through my day; doing the things that 18 of 19 people get to do without that extra help. I have to watch everything I eat: one extra macaroon or not taking a walk before going to bed can cause mood swings and lead to other complications. But like I said, it is a mess of my own making.

Just to give you a size and scope of the diabetes problem, I quote from a recent report from  Credit Suisse Research Institute which estimates that “close to 400 million people worldwide are affected by type II diabetes alone – a number that is quickly rising” and the “associated costs for the global healthcare system are estimated at a staggering $376 billion every year, representing over 10 percent of all healthcare costs.” By 2020 this could be a disease that impacts 500 million people and the costs “could rise to a whopping $700 billion,” the study said.

So when I read about Google’s “smart contact lens project,” which allows these lenses to measure blood sugar levels, for a very brief instant I was excited. It seemed like that finally we are getting to a place where needles, blood-soaked alcohol swabs and cotton balls are going to be history.

Over the years, many scientists have investigated various body fluids—such as tears—in the hopes of finding an easier way for people to track their glucose levels. But as you can imagine, tears are hard to collect and study. At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics—think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair—might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy.

We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears using a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material. We’re testing prototypes that can generate a reading once per second. We’re also investigating the potential for this to serve as an early warning for the wearer, so we’re exploring integrating tiny LED lights that could light up to indicate that glucose levels have crossed above or below certain thresholds. It’s still early days for this technology, but we’ve completed multiple clinical research studies which are helping to refine our prototype. We hope this could someday lead to a new way for people with diabetes to manage their disease.

Google glucose testing contact lens

Reality Check

But after the initial excitement was over, cold reality set in. It also prompted me to ask the question: why is it that a company with such good intentions fails to ask itself very basic of questions, something a normal human being would ponder before embarking on a scientific quest?

For example,  why would they ignore the fact that as a diabetes patient, it is generally recommended that I not wear contact lenses. Yes, I understand that there are many different opinions about this, but it is generally thought of as smart to not wear contact lenses, as they always carry the risk of increased complications for diabetics. And on top of that if you have say, astigmatism (like I do), then contacts are less of an option.


Never mind the big fact that most of the people who do suffer from diabetes (Type II) tend to get it because of poor diet, most often because of lack of better diet options due to increased economic and financial stratification of our society. Diabetes is a growing problem in countries in South Asia and parts of Asia and Latin America, especially among those who fit in the lower income category; you know, the kind of people who might find contact lenses an expensive luxury. The less financially fortunate among us are very same group who are much more likely to not monitor their blood sugar levels due to work conditions and financial limitations.

I emailed Google’s press relations department — about 12 hours ago — asking them to elaborate on why the researchers took this specific approach. Yes, as a diabetic, I appreciate the efforts of Google in general and specifically Brian Otis and Babak Parviz, the project smart contact lens co-founders, just as I appreciate every effort made by every scientist and doctor around the world trying to tackle one of the worst diseases to afflict the post-industrial society.

Tone deaf?

And yet, I cannot get over what seems to me a tone-deaf approach by Google’s scientists. It also highlights Google’s fundamental challenge: it fails to think about people as people, instead it treats them as an academic or an engineering problem. Instead of trying to understand the needs of actual people, they emerge with an elegant technological solution.

It is not just this one time. Google+, their social network, is a fail because it fundamentally isn’t social or about people — it is an effort to solve Google’s need for social data for better advertising using machines. Similarly, Google Glasses are a cringe-worthy assault to the social interactions of normals, but because a certain subset of Googlers — including co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page — have a cyborg fetish, it is okay to make that design. It is frustrating for me to keep repeating this, because Google is a company with huge resources and those resources could be deployed more effectively and have a much more positive impact, more quickly. And to do that, the company needs to learn to be human and develop compassion for human condition.

As a diabetic, the only solution I am looking for is non-invasive and one that keeps me in a state of constant alertness about my blood sugar levels while matching that data with advice about what I should do.

Instead of trying to develop a contact lens that will still be quite expensive for many of the world’s poor, diabetic patients, why not focus all monetary and intellectual energies towards developing a more simpler solution that can be built at scale, very cheaply? Why not take the open source ethos and develop a product that actually be given away to anyone — say, emerging world pharmaceutical companies — who wants to manufacture it cheaply? The licensing terms could/should include the Tom’s Shoes Principle: buy one, give one away for free to someone who cannot afford them.

Instead of contact lenses, how about Google’s mighty X-machine focus its microscopic chip approach that Otis and Parviz are taking on a patch that can be applied to the skin — akin to a nicotine patch. The patch could carry the chip and send data to nearest phone — be it a smartphone or a cheap feature phone — and alert diabetics when there are major spikes or declines in blood sugar levels. These would be easier to use, cheaper to product and much more easily distributed.  It is a moonshot, and totally worth it.

Sure, it would lack the whiz-bang nature of the smart contact lenses, but it would be something I would welcome with a big grin and a credit card while thanking my stars and Google for having developed that. It’s not that I am not unappreciative of the impact that these contact lens breakthroughs might have in a few years. But another few years would mean another 100 million fellow humans suffering from something I live with everyday.


172 Responses to “One diabetic’s take on Google’s Smart Contact Lenses”

  1. Johnny Normality

    Okay, so…

    1. Why do you think these contacts are prescription? These are simply a method, a non-invasive and low effort one at that, to collect and monitor a bodily fluid for glucose levels. These may well be porous and permeable enough to extend the wear time out to match the battery time in circuit.

    2. You mention that the cost of contact lenses are a luxury for the developing world. Compare a cheap contact lens (you only need one for monitoring) that lasts a few days vs several days of test strips, lancets, swabs, and bandages. Then consider the utility of having automatic or real-time monitoring and informing vs depending on the patient remembering to keep to a schedule.

    Of course, you’re also wrong about G+ and Glass so…

      • Johnny Normality

        I would like to know what living conditions you are talking about that are more conducive to a patch than contacts.

        This also doesn’t change that lacrimal fluid is a far better indicator than anything that can be collected topically through a patch. You mention using nanoscale needles, but now you have to have something that can a) penetrate into a blood vessel, b) be wide enough to actually allow uptake of blood, c) be sturdy enough to not sheer off when the patient moves that part of their body d) myriad other requirements I’m probably missing.

        Also a patch is still going to be an attractor for dirt and humidity, and anything that causes the adhesive to break down (like say human sweat) is going to decrease life and increase costs for the user.

        Patches would make for good wearable vectors assuming you can throughly shave the area, are in climate controlled environments, and don’t move too much.

        Contacts already fit into a nice spot our body does a good job keeping clean and protected.

        • Johnny — I see the problems with patches, but on (b), is blood being taken up? As I understand it, current CGMs measure BG in subcutaneous fluids by measuring the current that results from glucose oxidase activity. This takes an electrode, not a vessel. Patches might work better if they tried this approach. If a patch uses a needle to take up blood, this is also problematic in terms of keeping the needle clear. This is easy to do when you can flush the tube (as with a pump or IV), but would be tough with the patch scenario.

  2. Jason Sparks

    Couple things. Google has not formally announced anything so any stories or stats are just guesses at this point. The price point for these is not known, they may be $10/pair…but you don’t know. The point of these isn’t to “cure” diabetes, it’s proof of concept that can lead to cheaper better tech that can monitor blood glucose, radiation, chemo levels, potential drug interactions, precursors to stroke or heart attack, etc, etc. This a company that’s wants to make money while also improving your life. All I hear in your op eds piece is complaints about what it’s not, a pessimists viewpoint. Life is much more enjoyable when approached from, at the least, a pragmatist’s view, if not an optimist. My point being, this is great news for diabetics and all the future healthcare tech that might come from this to save lives. I say, “Hooray for Google!”

    • pragmatism ? it’s vaporware again and again

      and it was the same idea and person at Microsoft !

      it was again vaporware.

      I would like, for once in my lifetime, to see a Google Announcement : “here is our new product, it’s the result of years of great work. It is functional, it is real, you can buy it now and hospital can contact us for help with money. Available today”.

      I’m sick of vaporware and delusional in false hope by the computing industry.

      It may be great ONE DAY, everyone agrees with that, but again, it’s just an announcement about a lab thing… Like Sony and Microsoft years ago, Google speaks too soon or for nothing.

      We need real health tools not vaporware.

  3. “And to do that, the company needs to learn to be human and develop compassion for human condition.”

    You nailed it. Google Inc. is the single most soulless tech company on earth. Their MO is advertising and data collection, the two areas in which they excel. Everything else is a means to that end.

    You forgot to mention that crazy plan to deliver internet to 3rd world countries with hot air balloons to which Bill Gates noted: “If you’re dying has malaria, when you see the balloon, I’m not sure how it can help you. If children get diarrhea, there is no website that can cure it,”

  4. Wow.

    You admit your diabetes is your fault, as it is in the case of many type II patients. Yes, genes play a huge role, but as you say, your choices are what made this happen. There is also the hope of many type II patients that they could adjust diet and exercise to the point where there don’t need drugs, or even have it controlled with pills. Many choose not to make these lifestlye changes, but the opportunity is still there.

    I, on the other hand, am a type I diabetic, a demographic you don’t seem to acknowledge. I didn’t live an unhealthy lifestyle, and it’s not in my family history, I just got it and am now, for the rest of my life, insulin dependant. Type IIs can typically produce some insulin naturally, depending on their condition, and just need help keeping things in balance. Type Is can’t. This means that our blood sugar in is 100% regulated by the complex mixture of, among many things, what we’ve eaten, how much exercise we’ve had, and how much stress we’ve been under. Blood sugar drops of 50 points in an hour aren’t uncommon for some of us, and waking up with EMTs over us isn’t uncommon either.

    The possibility of having optional, real-time monitoring available would be wonderful. I am aware that there are some options currently available, but these tend to be invasive, requiring an always-there needle in your skin. If I’m going to exercise, or even move furniture,having the option to pop in contacts that would alert me if my blood sugar dropped would be much better.

    Why should Google abandon an idea that has a foothold, and will help many, including yourself, be abandoned in favor of chasing after an ideal solution to fix the world? Google pushes their employees to spend time on the clock chasing independant projects. This likely came from that. Who says they aren’t working on one to fix the problems you say should take priority over things they have a solution for? Why shouldn’t they pusure something that they’ve found a real fix for?

  5. Am I missing something between the article and the bar graph? You show a graph that shows, lower income populations tend to be less obese than higher income populations. The next paragraph is about how the lower income populations have higher risk for diabetes because of a lack of diet options, bla bla bla. Why even include the bar graph if you are going to ignore the data on it and regurgitate what you have heard from the talking heads on MSNBC dozens of times?

  6. Clark Jennings

    This approach falls into line with google’s core competencies (miniaturization, wearable tech), perhaps makes use of existing vendor relationships (via Glass), and generating good press, and developing technologies in new areas that could be used in countless applications. Keep in mind, Google is a tech company, not a diabetic. My guess is this project started with “how can we justify an attempt at some sort of smart contact lense?” rather than “How can we improve diabetic testing equipment?”

    Some other groups are working on sweat sensors (, but to me it reads like it can only tell you if things are getting really serious. What other fluids can be used for blood-glucose level readings? Saliva? Could someone make some sort of wireless tooth filling? The other option is even less comfortable…

  7. From my chair, any interaction Google can have with the FDA is welcomed. So much innovation is stopped or slowed by the long and painful FDA process. If Google can loosen the log jam and show the FDA that companies/startups in Silicon Valley are willing to invest and innovate given reasonable application approvals.

    -Type 1 diabetic of 25+ years

  8. Th3o6a1d

    This is an elegant integration of technology — to put sensors in corrective lenses, which are already in constant contact with secreted fluids. I’d take contacts over a skin patch any day. If you think a patch is so obviously a better way and is feasible, get a team of engineers together and make it happen.

  9. Seriously? I read the article and thought, “FINALLY, somebody is thinking outside the box!” So if I get you, you want Google to develop the technology, but have you tape it to your skin, not put it in a contact? Then give it to other companies to sell? What a crock.

    This is an amazing idea. How about a contact lens that constantly senses blood glucose levels, and then directly controls your insulin pump? Who knows how far this innovative thinking will go?

    You go buy your Apple stock. I’ll be first in line at this IPO.

  10. The idea behind this seems to be that they can detect glucose levels from tears and they figured out a practical way to do it.
    Not very familiar with the subject so no idea if detecting glucose levels from perspiration is accurate enough at this time but ,if it was, we would have products.
    You assume that contact lenses must be costly but there is no reason for that to be true and you also need to remember that Google has no obligation to give us shit for free, open source anything.If anything it’s their duty to make money , Google is a public company.
    I will point out that your beloved Apple has ridiculously high prices , higher margins than Google , has almost 3 times the annual revenue and they invest a lot less than Google in R&D so maybe at some point you make an effort to be objective.

    • Realjjj

      This is not about Apple and Google. It is about actually taking an approach that solves a problem for real people in a real fashion.

      By the way, how do you think they will make money off the contact lenses? Or is this just another effort to introduce contact lenses that can display more data for more google related services. If that is the end goal, go for it. Just coat in the diabetes-related issues.

      By the way, there isn’t much data that belies out their approach either.

      And lastly, if you want to make this Apple-vs-Google rivalry as part of the discourse, I would urge you to find another blog and another writer. I don’t see the world that way and don’t have time to engage in discourse like that.


    • Google like HP, and Microsoft spend more than Apple and get less return out of it, the numbers aren’t even close, just another Google moonshot (poor quarter coming up possibly?).

  11. D Andersen

    I appreciate your opinion … I appreciate Google’s efforts … there’s a place for both. I’m a type II diabetic lucky enough to control the disease 100% with diet. Obviously you need to take a walk and get into a better mood. Be thankful someone is thinking outside the box on ideas for diabetics.

  12. maybe because a patch on the skin would not be able to measure blood sugar? Maybe because they were already working on miniaturization of electronics and decided to channel some energy from that work toward this problem. Would you prefer they did not?

    • Ben

      There are many folks doing research in nano-scale needles that actually penetrate the skin layer and in reality any breakthrough there (probably helped along by Google) could be married it to the miniaturized electronics.

      PS: Did you see anywhere I say they don’t do research. I say, look at the obvious real world problems and tailor research efforts accordingly.

  13. Interesting. So you think it’s wrong to charge people who have money for things that poor people can’t afford. Instead you think successful companies should give away all their work and efforts for free. I’m not sure why you think it’s so wrong to make a profit, or why you think it’s wrong to let the wealthy fund research by buying products the poor can’t afford so that eventually that research trickles down to the poor themselves.

    Your entire economic vision seems flawed.

  14. Guillermo Gomez

    Nice article, for sure you haven’t read in your live about those histories like Columbus in 1492, or the First Man in the Moon, or the the etc., inventions and crazy things like smart contacts lenses for only 10% of diabetes is a wonderful thing. More than that, is a wonderful thing for someone like me, 50+ years with Diabetes type I and two sons with Diabetes type I too, resources are not easy to generate but if you work hard and complaint less you will be able to achieve your dreams, thanks to Google myself and another million of diabetics are now dealing with new dreams more close to earth and for sure to your hands.

    • Guillermo

      You have no idea on how hard I work, what dreams I have and how I deal with it. Those have nothing to do with this article, so don’t assume anything. That said, as a fellow diabetic, I feel why you need optimism and why not, we all need hope. Good luck with your family and dealing with the disease that afflicts your sons. My best wishes are with you and them.

  15. Google can’t fix the world’s biggest problems for all people, so they shouldn’t try to fix smaller problems for some people?

    They are a *web search* company, whose myriad smaller ventures all have one thing in common with each other and with their main goals as a search provider: they collect data. On large scales – much of which Google then makes available to anyone, for free – and on small scales, where it might only be of interest to the few. Or the one.

    That they investigate devices like this *AT ALL* is just bonus work, things they do because they *may* help someone somewhere. Criticizing a company that creates and gives away cutting-edge research that may someday be used by others to solve the big problems is absurd. Your *web search engine* company is trying to help diabetics, and some sort of tunnel-vision has convinced you that this is a bad thing. These contacts might – MIGHT – be helpful for diabetics, but normal contacts are what is needed here – to correct some severe short-sightedness.

  16. As a type 1 diabetic who wears contacts everyday, I love hearing someone is “attempting” this. It requires a lot of dollars to do this that not many companies are willing to tackle. I applaud the effort and if it fails for the reasons you state, I still commend them for trying.

  17. Cory Klatik

    Great write up and a good overview of the issue at hand – it seems the wearable trend is moving forward with the best of intentions of solving real problems. They just seem to be solving the right problems for the wrong people.

    It’s not inclusive design if the audience that would benefit the most from a product can’t use said product…

  18. Google + is a failure? Oh, you mean the fastest growing social network in history? Google glass isn’t even a real product yet and you’re hating on it even after the initial positive reaction from the Glass Explorer program.

  19. John Davis

    I think you missed this by a country mile….. most diabetics that can’t wear contacts are ones that already have eye issues or wear contacts for a prolonged period. Can the contact lense be a disease vector absolutely but so can the strips. On top of that if the lenses are used as just as a diagnoses method (i.e. wear for a few hours then stop) then it could be very useful. When you live in a third world country getting any supplies can be an issue. Even worse is trying to maintain equipment (including getting batteries) for monitoring your blood sugar. This idea is a step in the right direction so don’t shoot it down before it has a chance to mature.

    • John

      I think being a patient and having poor eyes, I have done all the research into contacts and was told by doctors, not random people that it might not be a good option. I think it is important to pursue new breakthroughs and I appreciate Google for trying, but this is something that needs a lot more input from actual patient community than just devising a device.

      • milindrao

        Om, I don’t doubt that you can’t use contact lenses. But please don’t extrapolate that to most people with Type II diabetes. I have it as well. All though obviously not as advanced a stage as yours. I’m still on pills and I do yearly checkup of my eyes which thankfully are still fine. It’s possible that you may have Glaucoma already. I have no restrictions on wearing contact lenses. I have no intentions of doing that since I find them very uncomfortable. And I’d prefer a patch I could use on my arms as well. But don’t shoot down ideas just because it doesn’t apply to you. Google throws a lot of things at the walls and picks the ones that stick. That is an admirable quality – and one far too few companies do any more.

        • Mike Crowley

          To add to this, I’m almost 30 with type 1. I’ve had it since I was 6 and have never had any restrictions on contact lenses. I get where Om is coming from, I just feel the article is lumping all diabetics into one group.

      • bdolphin

        As a patient and having very poor eyesight, neither my eye doctor or gp has told me not to wear contacts. Also, have you priced some of the contacts? They aren’t expensive, I wear disposables and I have a slight asigmatism. The electronics would be expensive and that would be the case whether it is a patch or contact lens. I think some money should be spent on why there is such an increase, be it from more and more processed foods, HFCS or whatever.

        • Bdolphin

          Lot of different opinions on this — lot of studies say differently from your experience — also glad to hear you get to wear contacts. I have settled with glasses for now and using exercise to control my situation. Good luck on your end.

          Thanks for the comment

      • You talk about Google not being pragmatic, and that a skin patch would be better.
        Unfortunately, even though we all would like it, the technology to measure glucose through the skin does not exist. Current sensors need to be imbedded through the skin and that brings a high risk of infection. So this is a step forward over implanted sensors, but certainly not ideal. And this research is likely to lead to improvements and in the end the technology for reading glucose through the skin may be discovered. You have to start somewhere and you can not blame Google that the first version is not yet ideal.

  20. ReadTheFinePrint

    Very well said Om.
    The other thing that concerns me is that there is no data at the moment to support tear glucose level being a good proxy for blood glucose. There are so many questions to figure out there that it really does seem that if the same flexible and miniaturized circuits had been applied to a skin patch it would have resulted in a useful sensor much sooner.

    One has to wonder if the timing of this PR assault for a Google X project with no clear path to production might be something of an attempt to whitewash the backlash from the Next acquisition…

    • David Knowles

      That what clinical trials of this technology will have to prove whether measuring glucose levels in tears is a good proxy for blood glucose. Phase 1 trial will probably involve patients doing both the finger prick test and wearing the lenses and comparing the data to see if they match up.

      The announcement it more likely to be connected with the facts that now Google appears ready to engage in clinical trials the circle of people involve in this project will grow dramatically and the likelihood of them keep their mouths shut about Google involvement is zero.

  21. Geoff Smith

    Nice posting Om and some very good points.
    If you would like to have a chance at reversing your diabetes check out the Reversing Diabetes page on Facebook.
    Many of us have done just that through a low carb diet.

  22. BenjaminGilead

    Yea Om, you will never give Google a break. Whenever they announce something you’ll find a way to crack them. Remember this is just a test, they are not product yet. Google might be trying to gather data to improve it through testing.

    Yea I understand they are not Apple.

    • This is not about Apple and Google. Seriously. That is for another day.

      What they are trying to do — even that is not clear. They don’t state their intentions, except some ambiguous statements. My point on this — so many smart people, so much money, so much effort — why not approach the problem in a more pragmatic way. Maybe I am harsh on them, but then they want to do “moonshots” and I am pointing out another approach.

      • Mel Gross

        I really believe that their entire reason for existance is to find ways to collect more date. Every “product” they come out with is aimed at that. It’s useful to a consumer, otherwise they wouldn’t use, or buy them, and Google’s purpose couldn’t then be fulfilled. But Google doesn’t seem to be interested in products per se. Much of what they do is for publicity, to gain positive public reaction, and positive write ups.

        I’m sorry, but this is very much about Google, what they do, and why. I don’t blame companies for “moonshot” products. It’s the purpose of those products that I question. Google is very deceptive, and the press is very accepting of what they do, rarely criticizing them for anything.

        If almost any other large company came out with a medical device that would transmit personal data as this would, it wouldn’t bother me too much, but when Google does it, it bothers me a great deal.

        • Oh no! They will collect data about ocular glucose and use it to serve ads for McFlurries at the appropriate blood sugar levels!

          I didn’t immediately realize that Gruber linked me to Kubrick and not tech, but the levels of FUD here have literally reached “precious bodily fluids” levels.

      • Louis Dalesio

        There it is!!! You have no idea what they are doing nor there approach. Interesting that you you are so confident in your assumptions that you would dedicate an article to their short-comings. How are you so sure that the contact wouldn’t be made of a material that you could wear all day! Do contacts lenses not advance? Perhaps be grateful for whatever insight their research may provide and focus your ire on those charged with the task of actually finding a cure. It is no more Google’s task to manage your diabetes than it is BMW’s to get your hair to grow, even if they they choose to dabble in that field.

      • What I believe is that they are approaching it initially as a wearable computer but along a way discovered the possibility of having application in aiding diabetic patients. As mentioned in the article, they are “investigating the potential ” of said application. The original aim of the project was probably never targeted at diabetic. This is pretty common in the field of research and development, some times you just stumbled upon unexpected new possibility where well might seem like a great idea at first but probably not if more time is spend into it, as what you have pointed out.

      • Google is not a medical company. Their job is not to alleviate or manage diabetes. They’re not qualified to do so.

        What they are is a tech company, one which is focusing R&D on wearable technology. This is one such application of wearable technology.

        That it doesn’t suit you personally or alleviate the plight of poverty-stricken diabetics is irrelevant, and is just as absurd as complaining about Apple and Nike working on toys related to cardiovascular exercise instead of launching a nationwide healthy living campaign.

        Who knows what this will lead to? The first steps towards pacemakers were made half a century before they became viable and useful.

    • art hackett

      Funny how the google boosters can’t even spell colloquialisms like yeah, or was it meant to be ye (olde english). Who knows? Who cares? Poor google, give ’em a break Om, they mean no harm….do they? Hows your google plus spam going?

    • “Remember this is just a test, they are not product yet. ”

      THAT is exactly the issue: WHEN they will do a _product_ to sell and improve people’s tools ?

      Google Glass should be one, google cars too, that lenses too. but NO, it’s just AGAIN a “a test to gather data to improve it through testing”

          • art hackett

            Wow, Krud sure knows a lot about twats, except how to identify others.
            Sorry about your affliction, but if you live in North America, I’m not at all surprised. Everything including water appears to have insane amounts of some type of sucrose or HFCS. After recently holidaying in the states for 4 1/2 weeks, I put on 3 kilos and still only had 1 1/2 to 2 meals a day and walked 100 or so blocks a day, mostly not even finishing the ridiculously large portions. Finding fresh or even interesting food was very difficult as a tourist with little spare time. I don’t know how the locals cope with this onslaught from the “food” manufacturing conglomerates trying to poison the nation. I suppose they’re working with the pharmaceuticals to produce a nation dependent on their treatments.
            Then there’s the Monsantos and their frankenfoods trying to lock out or sue out of existence, the normal family farms and food chains of last century.
            BTW, a big hello to the NSA and co, guardians of their corporate friends. Maybe I should have misspelled Moresanto.

            • @Krod,

              One day you’ll wake up and realize that tech companies need to make products for real people. Of course, Google isn’t really a tech company. They’re an advertising company and toward that end they spy on you more than the NSA dare even dream. They’re spying is more dangerous to you because it can directly affect your job prospects.

            • Mel Gross

              Wherever you may claim to come from Art, rest assured that your country is just as “bad”, or even worse. Those countries that have expressed “surprise” that the NSAs propping, have been shown to have programs that are as much, or even more, intrusive.

              And if you can’t find fresh food here, I can easily call you out for BS.

              So, what paradise are you from?

    • ACME Sales Rep.

      I’m quite certain that GM considers how humans might use their cars during the design process, krod. Despite being a car company, they do understand that their products are rather pointless without an end user.

      Now perhaps you could explain why being a “tech company” (really an advertising company, but we can ignore that for the purposes of this discussion) Google would not want to do the same, nor how this illustrates some deep secret of how the world works.

      • Mel Gross

        Because GM, Apple, GE and other companies that make their money from real products need that information in order to make better, more relevant products. That makes a lot of sense.

        Google needs that information to sell to advertising companies, which is where they make their money.

        For GM, Apple, GE and other product companies, the product is the end game, and the collecting of information is a step towards that. But for Google, the advertising, and sale of our personal information is the end game, and their so called products is the step towards that.

        It has to be understood, that we are not their customers, even if we do buy a Google “product”. We are Google users, and part of that product, or rather, our personal information, is the product.

        These contacts are no different. Google doesn’t really care about diabetics, they care about the value of the information this would provide to Google, that they can sell for a profit. Any benefit to the user would depend on whether that benefit would also benefit Google. So if a pharmaceutical company said that there was other data they needed, and would ve willing to pay for, Google would add that “feature” tor the device or service, acting as though it was for the users benefit.

        Now, indirectly, it could eventually benefit the users, if something helpful could be develioped from that data. But everyone using that would be an unconsenting member of a long term study that would be saving these companies hundreds of millions of dollars.

        What happens to medical confidentiality here? Supposedly, this data would be anonymized. But as we know, it would be easily compromised, especially if an Android device was used to collect, and transmit this data.

        Do we really want that?

      • Not sure its a deep secret, just an obvious one, tech companies behave like tech companies, to expect then to do otherwise is daft, and thats one of the ways the world works

          • Youve missed the point, which is that companies of whatever kind behave like companies of whatever kind, not like something they are not, thats one of the ways the world works whether its liked or not

  23. aarondfrancis

    Hey Om, good thoughts. As a type 1 diabetic myself, I feel that this is definitely a step in the right direction, if not the end of the journey. For example, I fully expect Google Glass to kind of suck when they first come out, but I have a hard time looking 5 years down the road and seeing them (or other models) still being terrible. Similarly, I think these contacts will *work* when they first come out, but will be expensive and far from perfect. But if they can get them out there, then we can test them, refine them, and then some 15 year old kid (they’re always 15, why is that?) will come up with a way to make them for super cheap. It has to start somewhere though. I can’t wait to try them out, they would change my life.

      • Mel Gross

        I think you guys are ignoring everything Om said here. But even he didn’t mention all the reasons why this is a bad idea.

        How much work is it to wear contacts? It’s a lot of work! Diabetics can’t wear long term contacts. If they do wear them, they must take them out at least one time every day for some time. Preferably more than that, to give the eye some time to recover. They certainly can’t wear “permanent”. Contacts, for days at a time.

        Cleaning contacts properly, with the correct solution is very important for anyone wearing them, but is especially important for diabetics. Some cleaning fluids may not be proper for a diabetic, as they may cause a reaction.

        Overall, it could be more work wearing contacts for this purpose than using the increasingly advanced tools that can be obtained currently, and in the future, some of which may not require pricking a finger for blood.

        Then there is the question of what percentage of people need contacts. If you don’t, are you going to wear these just for this purpose? I don’t think a lot of people would want that.

        In addition, it’s nice for you guys to think this would work for you at some point, but you are just a small subset of diabetics. As Om mentioned, most diabetics can’t afford a doctor’s visit, much less these contacts, even if they are eventually cheaper than they would be now.

        Overall, a bad idea.

        • Surely you’re not actually considering the work to take them out once per day and do a decent job of cleaning to be a dealbreaker here — are you?

          I have worn prescription contact lenses for 20 years and taken them off every day for a total of 7300 days or 14600 times I’ve stood at the sink to take them out or put them in. And I gladly do it, even though it’s not a literal life saver and I could wear glasses if I had to.

          So, yeah, I think that plenty of people will consider that a small price to pay to add years to their life through better monitoring, even if they “must take them out at least one time every day” and can’t wear “permanent” contacts.

          By the way, even with contacts that can be worn over night, you don’t want to. My eyes need a break after a day of wear, and if I fall asleep with them, my eyes dry out and the contacts suction onto my eyes. Not pleasant! So I’ll just keep on putting them on and taking them off every day, just for a bit of convenience.

    • As a type 1, I consider technologies like this potential life-changers. I use an insulin pump, a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), and a diabetic alert dog (alerts me to highs and lows – pretty cool). I can echo Om’s sentiment – it’s a real pain to have to manage something like this every day, making so many adjustments in my lifestyle just to maximize my time in the ‘normal’ range without encountering uncomfortable and potentially fatal insulin overdoses.

      Perhaps distinguishing between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes would help a bit here. Type 1 diabetes isn’t disproportionately diagnosed in different socio-economic groups as Type 2 is (so far as I know). And it’s not caused by lifestyle or diet issues (clearly related to the previous statement). For a Type 1, other than dietary advice and a flexible schedule, fancy machines really do make a world of a difference. I am privileged to be able to afford all of this expensive stuff (pump, CGM, adequate supplies of other kinds) and to be able to see doctors regularly. I know (as an American living in England right now) that even post-industrial, socialized healthcare systems struggle to provide this kind of stuff to people at reasonable costs. So no, this kind of tech isn’t a big solution right now. Of course, as Aaron points out, we need to see how the technology develops. As with CGM techs, first adopters will be wealthier and will be buying costlier, crappier techs at first. But things may get efficient, both in terms of production and in terms of quality.

      Returning to the question of diabetics generally, I wholeheartedly agree with Om that if Google wants to make the biggest difference for diabetics as a group, so mostly Type 2 diabetics like Om, this is not the way to do it. Especially considering what Om brought up – economic stratification and issues like plain-old food availability that fancy contacts won’t solve. If Google is interested in cyborg-style techs, then they can help some diabetics a lot (I would absolutely wear contacts if they helped a lot with my BG control). But if the Google mission is to help the larger population of diabetics, Type 2s, then they won’t be able to do it this way. It doesn’t seem like this low-tech project is their mission, however.

      • My son is Type 1 diagnosed at 4 not 15 he is 14 now. I do find the advances in technology reassuring but this is unrealistic. My son has good vision and why would I want him to place contacts in his eyes when he does not need them to see properly. This poses exposing his eyes to infections, irritations, that in a diabetics can have adverse effects and cause more problems. I am a nurse as well and wonder of the actual accuracy of tears in comparison to blood. As many of you know with your CGM they may not be accurate all the time and you have to monitor your blood sugars to maintain calibration. The research is encouraging but I am waiting for the CURE for TYPE 1 now that money I will gladly invested in and I would give my pancreas if I could and I KNEW he would not have to live with TYPE 1, I would live with diabetes over him ANY DAY.

    • I absolutely agree with you aarondfrancis — for Type 1/Juvenile diabetics – and I think that it’s pretty important to point out to people that Type 1 is NOT caused by poor living habits – For Type 1 people, this is a true game changer. My very athletic and active teen was recently diagnosed with Type 1 and this would improve the quality of his life tremendously. The author of this article clearly has Type 2, caused by poor eating and smoking habits and should have articulated the giant difference in the two types in this article. This oversight always bothers me tremendously, as Type 1/Juvenile and Type 2 are completely different.

      For healthy kids who, through absolutely NO fault or poor habits get Type 1, these lenses would be fantastic and I would be first in line to buy them for my child.