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Google’s smart contact lens: What it does and how it works

Wearable devices are already making technology much more intimate than once seemed possible, but Google has kicked it up to a whole new level. The company has announced a project to make a smart contact lens. But this gadget isn’t going to be used to deliver your e-mail straight into your skull — at least not yet. The project is working to tackle one of the biggest health problems facing the country today: diabetes.

The soft contact lens that Google is unveiling — it’s still a prototype — houses a sensor that measures the glucose levels in tears. A tiny pinhole in the lens lets tear fluid seep over the glucose monitor to get regular readings. Right now, the company said, it can get a level reading once every second.The lens also features a tiny antenna, capacitor and controller so that the information gathered from the lens can move from the eye to a device — such as a handheld monitor — where that data can be read and analyzed. It will draw its power from that device and communicate with it using a wireless technology known as RFID.

Given the sensitive nature of the data, Hall said, Google has also said it will make sure any data transferred from the lens cannot be manipulated — something that could have potentially fatal consequences if patients inject the wrong amount of insulin. Google has also worked to build in safeguards against other kinds of problems, such as a piece that is similar to a circuit breaker to prevent the lens from overheating.