Sure, you want better vision. We all do. Eyeglasses are old school; they need cleaning, need updating, and are yet something else to carry around and easy to damage or lose. Contact lenses work for many, but you can’t wear them all the time, you have to replace them often, and cleaning can be a nuisance. Laser surgery with or without implanted lenses is another choice. Well, now there’s new technology in town. Or at least in the lab.
The U.S. Patent Office recently granted Google a patent for injectable, intra-ocular, electronic lenses.This lens isn’t an internal version of Google Glass, or used to measure blood glucose or other biometric data from tears. While it’s totally conceivable that an injectable form factor might later have other uses, the patent as filed and published has the sole purpose of improving eyesight.
Google applied for the patent in 2014 and it was just published. While there’s speculation about all things Google, no specific announcement has been about injectable lenses, other than the published patent.
There are several components that are involved with the injectable lens, both inside the eyeball and outside. Components include the lens itself, a controller, storage, an internal battery, transmitting and receiving antennas, and an external unit with a processor and its own wireless set. While the patent describes several possibilities, it suggests the lens system would run on battery power during the day and the battery would be re-charged wirelessly from an external source at night.
A key feature will be the ability to change shaped based on instructions received wirelessly. The internal controller could change the optical power by pressing from behind on the corners of the existing lens in order to adjust vision. It may be that opticians will work with code sets to send via compatible transmitters. For example, while the Google implant lens may store information on how to shape the natural lens in different conditions and depending on focus, perhaps you’ll visit an optician or ophthalmologist on a periodic basis for an exam and new settings.
So for all the complexity of the design, actual application plans are scarce other than that the intended use is to improve vision. One telltale clue that Google is keeping their options open with the injectable lens is the statement in the patent that, “It should be understood that the above embodiments, and other embodiments described herein are provided for explanatory purposes, and not intended to be limiting.” So perhaps this patent is a first step toward an internal Google Glass after all. On the other hand, many patents are simply a way to call dibs on a concept, and the vast majority never see the light of day. So we may have a long wait before we’ll be looking through Google all the time.