Google Glass comes up short in forensics study

A German study finds that Google Glass can be efficient for acquiring images in forensic medicine, but the image quality was inferior compared to a commonly used digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

The objective of the study was to determine the feasibility of deploying Google Glass in a forensics setting. Forensic medicine was selected due to the fact that photo documentation is of "high value" in the field.

For the study, Google Glass was utilized in combination with a self-developed app that allowed for hands-free operation during four autopsies and postmortem examinations. A DSLR camera was used for image comparison. Six forensic examiners evaluated 159 images for image quality. Four areas--color discrimination, brightness, sharpness and satisfaction with the acquired region of interest--were of particular importance. 

"Images taken with Google Glass received significantly lower ratings for all 4 categories in an autopsy setting and for region of interest and brightness in postmortem examination," the article's authors write. "The effort necessary for achieving the objectives was higher when using the device compared to the DSLR camera thus extending the postmortem examination duration."

Though Google Glass may be an adequate tool for education at the current stage of development, the authors conclude that when it comes to deployment in clinical care, issues such as hygiene, data protection and privacy need to be addressed.

Due to technical limitations and regulatory hurdles, it could still be years before Google Glass sees wide use in healthcare with mobile apps. Interoperability, in particular, is a stumbling block to implementing Google Glass in healthcare settings, according to Lynne Dunbrack, research vice president with IDC Health Insights. As a result, Dunbrack believes this will delay the implementation of Google Glass in clinical settings. She expects the industry won't see any commercially available Google Glass apps until the end of 2014 or later.

Nevertheless, a Google Glass head-mounted display system has been successfully demonstrated to help surgeons with a number of clinical applications, including monitoring a patients' vital signs throughout a surgical procedure without turning away. 

To learn more:
- read the JMIR article