Google's research began innocently enough...
Google's first patent application for a contact lens was approved way back in 2014, when it was still in the eye (!) of a public relations shit-storm over Google Glass. The headsets were being banned by restaurants, bars, theaters, and sports events, and Google was preparing to take them off the market altogether. Unveiling an even weirder wearable at such a moment seemed like a massive PR miscalculation -- until you realized what the lens was actually designed for.
On its blog, Google excitedly outlined that the mysterious contact lens was not some newfangled eyeball camera, but rather a device aimed at helping people with diabetes, capable of constantly monitoring blood sugar levels via the glucose in tears. The announcement successfully shifted attention away from the Glass disaster to a new project, one that would put an end to painful finger-pricking for millions of people.
Since then Google has partnered with the pharmaceutical giant Novartis to get things moving, and has also begun developing yet another type of lens to restore the eye's natural autofocus for patients with age-related long-sightedness. Neither device has hit the market yet, but the latter will reportedly enter human-testing trials this year, and Google's even patented the packaging for it.