Google applies for patent on contact lens with built-in camera

by Liam McCabe

posted Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM EST


Disappointed that you missed your chance to buy Google Glass during yesterday’s limited-time sale? Or just bummed out that the future of mobile photography might lie in a face computer that makes anyone look like a doofus? Good news: Google is already working on a way to stick a camera right on your eyeball.

The US Patent and Trade Office recently published an application from Google, filed in 2012, concerning smart contact lenses with built-in cameras. It’s still a hypothetical product—there’s not even a working prototype. But the application makes several science-fiction-style ideas sound possible, including blink-based controls, heads-up displays that move with the wearer’s vision, and ways in which the imaging components could help folks with serious visual impairments to navigate through the world.


This seems like a perfect use for the lensless camera prototype that made the rounds last month. But the Google patent filing describes the contacts as having a camera element as well as a separate sensor, rather than one integrated device. Even so, it seems unlikely that these contacts will snap high-res photos—but with smart processing, it’ll be able to capture a recognizable version of the world.


On that note, the patent application also leaves open the idea that the sensor in the contacts doesn’t need to be a typical image sensor. It could instead detect non-visible light, for example. The tech could evolve into a real-life version of the visor worn by Geordi La Forge, a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation who was born blind, but thanks to technology, can “see” all sorts of information about the physical world that human eyes cannot.

All that said, these contacts don’t exist yet. Google announced back in January that they’re working on a prototype for contacts that can monitor glucose levels, so it’s not so far-fetched that they’d be able to gin up a camera-fied version of the lenses in the near future. Another company, Innovega, is also working on smart contacts.

Check out a detailed report on the patent application at Patent Bolt.

(Via CNET, Patent Bolt)