Alphabet Halts Project for Glucose-Sensing Smart Contact Lens

Brian Otis, Google X project lead, holds a contact lens Google was testing to explore tear glucose in 2014.
Brian Otis, Google X project lead, holds a contact lens Google was testing to explore tear glucose in 2014.
Photo: Jeff Chiu (AP)

Alphabet has halted a project under its biotech division Verily that aimed to create smart contact lenses for people with diabetes. The ambitious, years-long endeavor aimed to measure glucose levels in tears using on-lens sensors.


Verily made the announcement Friday in a blog post about its decision with Alcon to table the project for the foreseeable future, citing inconsistencies in its measurements between blood and tear glucose levels. (Verily partnered with the Swiss eye care company, a subsidiary of Novartis, in 2014 on developing the glucose-sensing contacts.)

“Our clinical work on the glucose-sensing lens demonstrated that there was insufficient consistency in our measurements of the correlation between tear glucose and blood glucose concentrations to support the requirements of a medical device,” the company said. “In part, this was associated with the challenges of obtaining reliable tear glucose readings in the complex on-eye environment.”

Verily said that it would continue to partner with Alcon on its two other Smart Lens devices: an intraocular lens designed to improve sight following cataract surgery and another for presbyopia. Alcon confirmed that the decision to halt the project was mutual.

It’s a notable move for the company and one that wasn’t without its warning signs. Experts and Google employees have previously criticized the project, with Stat reporting in 2016 that one former Verily manager described the smart lens as “slideware,” or a project that sounds good in theory but is limited in its potential beyond a PowerPoint presentation.

Defending its technology and research at the time, Verily told Stat: “As with all true innovation, some projects can and will fail.” Still, Verily stated Friday it is committed to its other projects focused around diabetes, including other affordable and unobtrusive glucose sensing methods.

[Verily via CNBC]



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Maybe computer software companies that get 80 percent and more of their revenues from advertising should front themselves as advertising companies instead of technology companies. Or front as a media company for god’s sake. For instance, it’s good to assume a company called Bill’s Bricklaying, Inc makes money by laying bricks. If Bill’s Bricklaying gets most of its revenues from monetization bricks for ad placement, it might reward sales and marketing types more than its bricklayers.

In my simple world, advertising is essentially bullshit. A necessary sales tool in a consumer driven economy. It’s why we don’t have to pay for a Gizmodo subscription. Gizmodo honestly fronts as a media company and that is commendable.

My guess is that if advertising is your bread and butter, you’re going to error on the side of bullshit most of the time. Decision makers may have higher verbal SAT scores than math. This could cloud folks’ vision when efforting in areas of science and engineering outside their wheelhouse.