The technology giant Google has teamed up with the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis to develop the next generation of contact lenses.
It is hoped that the new lenses will not only improve eyesight for regular users but also monitor insulin levels among people with diabetes.
No financial terms for the deal – under which “smart” lens technology designed by Google will be developed further by Novartis – were announced.
The tie-up comes after Novartis’s chief executive, Joseph Jimenez, identified eyecare as one of the company’s three key divisions when he announced a radical restructuring in April.
Google also revealed earlier this year that it planned to develop “smart” contact lenses and said it had met officials at the US Food and Drug Administration, which oversees medical devices.
“We are looking forward to working with Google to bring together their advanced technology and our extensive knowledge of biology to meet unmet medical needs,” Mr Jimenez said. “This is a key step for us to go beyond the confines of traditional disease management, starting with the eye.”
In one application of the technology, Google’s prototype lens contain a sensor and electronic circuits that pick up and transmit data about the levels of glucose in tears to a mobile device. According to the research firm GlobalData, the market for blood sugar monitors is expected to reach $12bn (£7bn) by 2017.
A second project is to work on treating presbyopia, an age-related problem where people have problems focusing on nearby objects.
The search engine’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, said: “Our dream is to use the latest technology in the miniaturisation of electronics to help improve the quality of life for millions of people. ”
Mr Jimenez said he hoped a product could be on the market in about five years.
Separately, Microsoft staff are braced for the worst, with reports suggesting that the software giant could slash up to 6,000 posts within days. The newly acquired Nokia handsets division is likely to bear the brunt of the cuts.
The UK could be badly hit amid reports that the marketing team behind the Xbox games device, which has its European base in Reading, is under scrutiny.