|Fig. 1: The most recent version of the Google Glass. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Introduced as a piece of wearable technology that had any number of tech nerds, CEOs, fashionistas and everyday people drooling, the Google Glass appeared to be headed towards becoming a revolutionary way to interact with the same technology everyone uses on their cell phones. However, as the technology has grown, so too have the potential capabilities of this incredible creation from Google. No longer limited to aiding individuals with reading texts, following GPS routes, or recording video, the Google Glass has the potential to become a far more powerful tool that could benefit millions. The small, lithium-polymer powered device (Fig. 1) may be the tool that can open up the door to improved quality of life for people that are blind and aid those fighting Parkinson's, while also improving the field of medicine in areas like patient care and doctor-patient interaction.
The list of possible capabilities that could be added to the Google Glass could go on endlessly, but in the field of medicine, a couple advancements stand out.  The first is that Google Glass can be used to help people with severe vision impairments to interact with their environments easier and with greater independence than ever before.  One study conducted at the Schepens Eye Research Institute at Harvard Medical School investigated the possibilities of using Google Glass to advance vision.  Researchers used augmented reality technology in Google Glass to enhance the real world view of the user. Final results indicated that for all tested subjects, researchers observed a significantly improved contrast sensitivity while simulating low vision conditions.  Although this accounts for only one small sample size, it paints a clear picture of some of the capabilities that have yet to be fully taken advantage of with this piece of wearable technology.
One other advance can completely change the way doctors interact with patients, perform procedures, and teach medical students.  For doctors and nurses, Google Glass could display real time updates on vitals and other medical information on patients while they are being treated.  Additionally, the technology can be placed on mannequins or patients for medical students to be able to learn about their bedside manners, or be worn by surgeons and watched live by the students in another room. This goes far beyond finding an easier way to read texts and navigate new streets, the Google Glass could completely revamp modern medicine and change how doctors, nurses, and students learn and provide care.
The main setback cited by people testing the Google Glass in fields like medicine is the battery. In nearly every study that was explored while writing this report, researchers stated that the main downside to using the Google Glass for performing daily tasks and improving medicinal functionality is the limited energy storage capacity of the battery. In scenarios that might include all-day vision enhancement, or long shifts in a hospital, the battery life becomes a large problem.  Battery life is particularly crippled when users take advantage of the video recording feature, which is imperative when using vision enhancement technology.  With the camera on at all times, battery life is limited to about 40 minutes. The lithium battery is small, so as to keep the size of the product as small as possible, but that could become an enormous issue if these technologies are to become more mainstream.
© Sam Werner. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
 A. D. Hwang and E. Peli, "An Augmented-Reality Edge Enhancement Application for Google Glass," Optometry Vision Sci. 91, 1021 (2014).
 W. Glauser, "Doctors Among Early Adopters of Google Glass," Can. Med. Assoc. J. 185, 1385 (2013).