Microsoft: We welcome Google contact lenses (& yes, we did them first)

Jan 17, 2014
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Microsoft has weighed in on Google's plans to commercialize contact lenses that track blood sugar levels, after comparisons were drawn between them and a previous Microsoft Research project on something notably similar. The two schemes are indeed connected, Microsoft Research's Desney Tan said today, pointing out that the late 2011 project he led on glucose-sensing lenses with integrated displays was done in collaboration with Babak Parviz and Brian Otis who are at running Google's scheme. However, rather than being frustrated, Tan says he welcomes the development.

The way Google has picked up the contact lens baton "is a great example of why we and others must continue to invest in basic research" Tan argues. Parviz and Otis were faculty at the University of Washington back when they worked in collaboration with Microsoft Research on the tear-glucose monitoring system.

That they moved on to Google and that it's the search giant that is planning to create a production version is just a positive outcome of Microsoft "open research and deeply collaborative model" Tan says. Although the team usually works with Microsoft's own commercial divisions, he points out, Microsoft still benefits when it's an external company that's involved.

"Success in the smart contact lens project could impact the lives of millions," Tan concludes, "and we wish Babak, Brian and the Google team good luck in this endeavor."

Microsoft Research is an often-overlooked division within the company, which is better known for its Windows products. However, current projects include personal genomics, HIV vaccines, and even using some of Microsoft's more consumer-focused hardware like the Kinect sensor-bar to diagnose conditions like brain tumors.

The contact lens system uses chips, sensors, and antennas thinner than human hairs to take a glucose measurement once a second. A simple embedded LED would potentially use color to warn the wearer of a possibly concerning change in levels.


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