The eyes may not only be the windows on our souls, but they can also provide a view into many aspects of our physical health as well. Many researchers are working toward sensors that could sit on the surface of the eye to monitor all sorts of biometric measures. It’s a challenging environment, and as we reported last month, Google’s Verily put on hold its smart contact lens project to measure glucose levels from tears.
A team from the research center imec, Ghent University, and the contact lens maker SEED recently announced that they have developed a novel approach to constructing smart contact lenses. Instead of relying on plastic substrates, they turned to hydrogel-based material that contains water. They were able to construct a lens that contained an LED light, a microchip controller, and a radio-frequency antenna that can be used both as a power source and a means of transmitting data. The spherical electronics were embedded in the soft contact lens material, and flexible interconnects for the circuitry mean that it can bend and flex as needed.
According to a source at SEED, the technology lends itself to mass production, raising the possibility of relatively low-cost contact lenses with a variety of sensors built in. These could be used to monitor existing conditions or detect signs of disease.