Tech titan Google (NSDQ:GOOG) is taking contact lens technology to another level with a new patent for a camera-equipped lens that speculators say could be a step toward vision-assistance as well as vision-improvement technology.
According to extensive patent documents reviewed by PatentBolt, the technology could detect faces or patterns, "zoom in" on objects in real-time and help warn visually impaired users of dangers ahead by triggering alerts from a connected smartphone with voice-based notifications.
Google isn’t the only company seeking technology-based visual assistance for the blind or nearly blind. Second Sight Medical won FDA approval last year for its "bionic eye," comprised of a camera-mounted glasses and an intraocular implant that captures visual information and uses it to stimulate eye.
Google’s technology would substantially shrink the wearable component and ostensibly route the whole thing through existing smartphones, rather than a dedicated processing pack as Second Sight’s Argus II system does.
The technology, which came out of Google’s clandestine X Labs, could be the next phase of the company’s Google Glass project, some have speculated. The lenses would have the ability to capture and process image data, but could also communicate wirelessly with remote devices for further reality-augmentation and data processing.
"For example, a blind person wearing Google’s contact lens with a built-in camera may be walking on a sidewalk and approaching an intersection," PatentBolt wrote. "The analysis component of the contact lens #265 (noted further below) can process the raw image data of the camera to determine processed image data indicating that the blind person is approaching intersection with a crosswalk and establish that there is a car approaching the intersection."
"Processing component can communicate the processed image data or a command to a remote device such as an Android smartphone which can provide an audible warning to the blind person related to the state of intersection."
Facial recognition capabilities could be a boon to the blind as well as to law enforcement officials, the news source noted. "Binocular" vision to zoom in on faraway objects may represent a more universal selling point.
This isn’t Google’s first run at contact lens technology. The company revealed early this year that its X Labs were working on glucose-sensing contacts for patients with diabetes.