THE BLOG

Google's Contact Lens Is Just the First Step in Turning Us Into Empowered Robots

20/01/2014 15:25 GMT | Updated 21/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Forgive me for slightly boiling down the reasons for human existence into one pithy sentence but the three base instincts that truly fuel us are to get richer, have more sex and live longer. Or maybe that's just me.

Anyway, it's not a coincidence that the internet's most lucrative enterprises focus on the first two - gambling and porn. The third, however, is about to come of age.

Last week Google launched its nifty new tool - one that will have far more beneficial effects to society than its frankly ridiculous glasses and one which it was rumoured Apple had been considering for some time.

Its new contact lens with a wireless chip embedded inside is designed to track blood sugar levels by analysing glucose in a wearer's tears. Google believes its prototype could one day save millions of diabetics from the need to take frequent blood samples to keep track of their condition.

The story came hot on the heels of another study which suggested eating more apples could reduce the risk of contracting diabetes.

Diabetes and apples. Apple and diabetes. What a serendipitous link.

Because many believe that the future of Apple lies in its ability to develop software that will markedly improve our lives, not in a geeky way but in a healthy way. That instead of using devices, we will wear them.

When everyone decided that Apple had hired Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts so that she could use her retail know-how to transform the Apple 'in-store shopping experience', the insightful writer Bryan Appleyard, who noticed Ahrendts had subsequently hired a number of leading fashion designers and marketers, said something markedly different in the New Statesman magazine:

'The next move in this game is the cyborg - the part-human, part-machine, dreamed of by science-fiction writers. This is all about wearable computing or "technologically enhanced clothing". For example, clothing that tracks your vital signs - blood pressure, heart rate, and so on - giving you instant feedback so that you can adjust your behaviour. Apple Stores could thus become, in part, clothing outlets.'

Health-related wearables are about to become the most important arena of technology because they won't just amuse, entertain and keep us connected. They will help us to live longer. And not only will they truly enrich our lives but they will also save billions in government spending on health. Thus, companies like Apple and Google - and other significant players such as Philips - will find willing and active partners wherever these new wearable devices are introduced. These companies won't be just selling and making profits, they will be empowering and transforming lives.

Almost a quarter of spending in America and the UK is connected to health and current wearble devices, the market in which is estimated to grow to be worth an annual £4billion by 2018, put the focus on prevention rather than treatment.

The next generation of these tools, however, will do more than tell us how fast we're running and what our calorie intake is. They will be able to use data to provide personalised plans and assessments, the like of which we've never before experienced outside of a top hospital.

This is about more than exercise tracking bracelets like Up or Flex, sleep monitors or socks, such as that created by Heapsylon that help to improve our posture.

Experts believe that within the next five years we'll habitually carry 10 types of wearable devices, including copies of the Google contact lens alongside implantables and ingestables, all capturing data, improving treatment of serious illnesses and allowing people to take preventative steps to ensure they don't contract disease.

Devices such as Preventice's BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System are among the most advanced tools on the market right now, delivering patient data to doctors virtually through a series of sensors.

But it's expensive, unwieldy and, well, not terribly stylish. If devices like this could be incorporated into clothes...well then it really will be worth obsessing about what you wear in the morning.