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Self-driving cars and smart contact lenses; how Google inventions are changing the optical world

Deep in the heart of California, lies a small, red-brick building. On the outside, it seems ordinary, but inside, lies intelligence and prototypes that could change the lives of millions around the world. This building is the home of Google X, a semi-secret facility dedicated to major technological advancements. 

At Lenstore, we’ve collated just a few of Project X’s inventions, and how they could change the optical world forever.

Self driving cars

On May 27th 2014, Google unveiled a new prototype for their self-driving car. Yes, Google have built a car without a steering wheel, accelerator or brake pedal; just a button for “Go” and a big, red button for “Stop.” The two seater vehicle is also equipped with a little display depicting a countdown to journey launch, the weather, the destination and the speed.

Like Aladdin’s magic carpet, the car is summoned, (by a smartphone), and locates the passengers location and destination using a built-in high tech GPS system. The car is powered by an electric motor, but chances of driving fast and furious are pretty slim; speeds are capped at just 25 mph. In terms of navigating through traffic, pesky roadworks and Sunday drivers, the car uses a mind-boggling combination of radars, lasers and sensors to detect objects more than two football fields away in all directions.

Although it may resemble a Little Tykes Car, Google’s will give independence to millions of people around the world. To showcase this, Google invited a blind man named Steve to try out the new prototype; “A lot of little things have to do with getting from place to place, in order to connect and do things and be with people…. So, there’s a big part of my life that’s missing, and there’s a big part of my life that a self-driving vehicle will bring back to me.”

For all those without a pink license, the Google self-driving car won’t free you from the confines of public transport just yet; Google report that the car should be road-ready by early next year, but will require testing for another two years. Current expectations estimate the car won’t be available to the general public for at least 5 years.

Google Glass

On May 15th 2014, the long awaited Google Glass became available to the American public for a whopping $1,500 (approximately £850). Google Glass is an eyewear-mounted computing device, which projects its display onto a prism, placed directly in front of your eyes. 

For the tech savvy among us, the eyeglasses come equipped with a 720p camera, a (highly contested) full day battery life, 16 GB memory and the option for WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. On top of this, Google Glass lets you take photos and videos, message friends and search the web. For the fashion conscious among us, the smartglasses are designed to resemble and weigh less than standard eyeglasses.

The advent of Google Glass heralds a new age for optical wear; in the future, prescription glasses wearers will be able to add Google Glass tech to their normal frames, and enjoy an augmented reality right before their very eyes.

Smart contact lenses

In 2013, official NHS data reported that there are more than 3.2 million adults in the U.K suffering from diabetes, an increase of 163,000 people from 2012. Around the world, a shocking one in every 19 people suffer from the condition.

In light of this, Google have found a way to constantly measure glucose levels, which negates the need for painful pinprick blood glucose tests. The solution is Smart Contact Lenses, which use a tiny wireless chip and glucose sensor embedded in contact lenses to monitor glucose levels in tears, and relay information to a handheld device using a built-in miniature antenna. This new prototype will provide constant information to diabetes sufferers, and warn wearers if their glucose levels have fallen dangerously high or low.

With the number of people suffering from diabetes increasing every year, Smart Contact Lenses could potentially change the lives of millions of people around the world. Unfortunately, Google have warned that testing is still at a very early stage, and are currently just refining the prototype.

From Smart Contact Lenses to a computer beamed onto your lenses, Google X’s new inventions will change the way people see, drive and interact with each other. With rumours of contact lenses that can even take photos in the pipeline, the inventions coming from that little red building in the heart of California are definitely making waves in the optical world.