Patent watch: Google and Sony take wearables to the human eye

Google eye wearables
Google's new device aims to improve the wearer’s vision while working as a computer

Our bionic future just got a little closer. This weekend it emerged that Google is working on a computer that can be injected into people’s eyeballs, in what could be the ultimate wearable yet developed. The news comes after Sony filed a similar patent early last month.

Yep. Your eyes aren’t just a window to your soul, they’re also the next frontier in wearable technology.

Google filed a patent this weekend that signals its intentions for world dominance in bionic computing – but the new development could well be one of the tech giant’s many moon-shot projects that aren’t actually manufactured or made available for mass usage.

Wearable computer

The new device aims to improve the wearer’s vision while functioning as a computer. It could include storage, radio transmission facilities, sensors and liquid crystal lenses, while apparently drawing energy from the wearer’s body with the help of an “energy harvesting antenna”.

According to the patent, the electronic lens will help focus light on to the eye’s retina. It says the device would be injected into the eye’s lens capsule in a fluid form, after the wearer’s natural lens has been removed by ultrasonic vibrations and via suction.

Possibly created from a flexible polymer, it would then harden over a short period to be able to function properly in accordance with the rest of the eye.

Users will likely be able to control this eye-popping (sorry!) computer through what appears to be an external device, the patent indicates.

google eye computer patent
Google’s patent application features a product that could include storage

Google scientists appear obsessed with technology that aids and uses sight. After the development of Google Glass, which was launched in 2013, the company began talking about the Google Contact Lens to measure glucose levels in tears, a product aimed at diabetics.

Contact lens camera

Sony’s patent application is for a similarly futuristic contact lens that incorporates Google Glass’ camera features. It is to be worn on the eyeball and will incorporate an image pickup lens, a sensor, a Wi-Fi antenna and a tiny storage unit.

As with Google, it may then be linked to external devices such as smartphones and computers. This redefined camera lens would be a boon for photographers in conflict situations, for example, but could breach privacy laws and conventions.

At the moment no details on manufacture and market availability are to be had for both devices. Indeed, it’s unclear if they have actually been built and tested, but for now the technology has geeks and boffins alike all excited.

For others, well, seeing is believing.