Google Glass. Whether it’s the can’t-live-without-it device of the future or the less desirable “Segway for your face”, there’s no denying the intrigue generated by this sleek, uber-technological gadget.
When I heard that a Google Glass demonstration was going to be at Vision Expo West this year, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. It was clear since the arrival of these smart glasses that there would be plenty of optometric potential!
In private practices across the country, patients have been inquiring as to when Google Glass will be prescribed or dispensed. Just this month, Google Glass announced that a partnership with VSP Global is in the works to enable ODs to prescribe the smart glasses and integrate the device into prescription frames. It is up to us to become familiar with Google Glass – its benefits and limits to vision – so that we can give credible advice to our patients.
In case you’ve been living in a cave for the past year, Google Glass has been one of Google’s hottest new products since its introduction to the public in April 2012. The wearable computer features an optical head-mount display (OHMD) and allows hands-free operation via voice commands. Rather than simply calling its colors black, orange, grey, white, and blue, Glass comes in Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale, Cotton, and Sky.
Just say the magic words, “OK glass,” and the smart glasses can take a picture, record a video, search for directions, or send a message.
When I tried on Google Glass, it was extremely lightweight and the resolution of the OHMD was crystal clear. There will definitely be a substantial learning curve and adaptation period. During our Glass demo, I constantly found myself swiping the touchpad in the wrong direction, while every accidental head tilt catapulted my virtual reality onto a different screen (“Directions to Bellagio Hotel” was rudely interrupted by a Wikipedia search of Rhesus Monkeys, brought on by a not-so-slight hair flip).
So what was this hot tech product from Silicon Valley doing at Vision Expo West?
What Google wanted from ODs – one can only make assumptions. From my test drive with Google Glass I found several optometric issues embedded in the structure and design of the smart glasses.
1. Prescription lenses
Monica, my friend and classmate from Berkeley Optometry who also attended the demonstration, couldn’t get the device to fit properly over her own white-checkered Etnia frame. Removing her own prescription lenses rendered the Glass screen blurry. At the moment, the Explorer Expedition does not cater to myopes, hyperopes, or people who need prescription lenses to function. However, rumor has it from the Silicon Valley grapevine that prescription lenses for Glass are currently in the works, and may be available as early as 2014. The Explorer Google Glass already has an attachable one-piece polarized sunglass lens, so building the optical infrastructure for prescription lenses seems to be the next obvious logical step.
2. Eye dominance
Currently, the Google Glass hardware only has OHMD in front of the right eye. As a severely right-eye dominant person and an occasional left eye suppressor, I found my brain sucked into the virtual world of my Google Glass through my right eye, even though my left eye was functionally looking around the room in the “real-world.” Clearly, this phenomenon makes it difficult and unsafe to drive while using Glass, which can be incredibly distracting. While most states have passed laws limiting usage of mobile devices while driving, Google Glass is also known to provide excellent turn-by-turn driving glasses. Furthermore, why doesn’t Google Glass offer the OHMD on the left side for the left-eye dominant population? It seems like a very simple hardware alteration, and could be Google Glass’s next development step.
Our brains don’t like to see different images in each eye. With the constant binocular rivalry that accompanies the Google Glass, users may experience dizziness, visual confusion, change in phoria, or disorientation. Some may also experience discomfort due to the unaccustomed act of looking up at the OHMD. And while the interruption in binocular vision is brief, it would be intriguing to see how well our amblyopic or strabismic friends can use the product, given its slew of binocular vision issues.
Google Glass is not be available to the public for purchase until 2014. Even though some people compare the smart glasses to the segway – a wonderful idea in theory but kind of dorky in reality – it remains an interesting technological development. While some predict that Glass will never reach mainstream popularity, and only take off only in the uber-tech community, other companies like Microsoft and Samsung are already starting to develop their own smart glasses to compete with Google Glass.
Regardless, the future is now. Embrace Google Glass. Embrace the ever-evolving reality of optometry. What’s your opinion of Google Glass or experience with this technology? Comment below!
For more information on Google Glass and its involvement with optometry, check out this informative article on Review of Optometry.