Google brings smartphone functionality to eyeglasses

Forget having to fumble with your cell phone to look up information. Google is putting smartphone functionality into a pair of high-tech glasses, reports the New York Times.

Attributing the news to employees within Google's secretive development group, dubbed Google X by the Times, the new eyeglasses will use the same software as Android smartphones, and be equipped with GPS, motion sensors and cameras, the Times reports.

The idea is to pack smartphones' ability to access information from the Internet, location systems and other sources into a heads-up display for users. The Times envisions users tapping GPS systems for directions or maps and even accessing facial recognition software to identify people they meet.

It's pretty intriguing technology, and one that could have major implications for healthcare, according to reviewers at iMedicalApps. Here's some applications they see:

Provide heads-up display for OR imaging: Surgeons often struggle, even with PACS monitors in the OR, to view images in detail. With the Google glasses, surgeons could have access to images at the same time that they're performing procedures, iMedicalApps reviewer Michael DiPaola says.

Improve facetime: Tablets, laptops and smartphones all require users to look away from patients while they're accessing information or conducting searches on their devices. DiPaola predicts the heads-up display could allow physicians to have more eye contact, and a better rapport with patients.

Allow remote assist: The camera on the glasses is supposed to allow users to stream the images they're looking at. For physicians, this could mean streaming video of a procedure to a specialist, who can guide them through a tricky part, or otherwise consult on the case as it unfolds, DiPaola writes.

The Times article does point out, though, that the body language and behavior of users, who may react physically to what they see on the heads-up display, could be off-putting.

"It will look very strange to onlookers when people are wearing these glasses," William Brinkman, Miami University's computer science and software engineering department graduate director, tells the Times

The Times also points out the glasses could have serious security and privacy concerns, although it doesn't detail what Google may be doing to address them.

To learn more:
- read the iMedicalApps story
- check out the New York Times article
- check out the Los Angeles Times coverage