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Simply, GOOGLE GLASS…in DIGITAL HEALTH, a health sensor & beyond


Once in a while, an electronic wonder comes along that shakes the status quo; a gadget that makes everything change, that rewires our thoughts and ideas and gives us hope for a possible better future, here and now.

Sometimes, it is not really just one device, but many-in-one, with multiple capabilities and features that excite the imagination of the users, explorers, problem-solvers or “wannabes”.

Do you remember the Swiss Army Pocket-knife?  images-7

Let’s take Google Glass, for example; it is basically a wearable, smart-phone-like device, a communications tool. It allows you to make a phone-call (Glass-call, really), send a text message, e-mail and tweet. Taking photos, video (form the users point-of-view) and searching the Internet are also included. A formerly available feature, the video “Hangouts” and live video calls are not possible for now, but will return soon, and, reportedly, with much-improved quality.

All of these capabilities have, for the last year, inflamed the imagination of many people, among many disciplines, in my case, the field of Digital Health, Healthcare and Medical Education.

When I first saw Glass in live action, in the hands (forehead) of one of its inventors, Babak Parviz, at the Singularity University-FutureMed program 2013 (http://exponential.singularityu.org/medicine/ ), I immediately knew that this device had the potential to change the game, or even better, “creatively destroy” how the game was played.

I applied and got selected to the Google Glass Explorers program, while dreaming about its uses in my field of work; I was able to buy it very early last year, started using it, became amazed with its potential and possibilities, performed the FIRST surgical operation with Glass ever documented, (http://t.co/W0EJQy9U8s), and then, suddenly and spontaneously became an advocate for it, sort of an evangelist for the use of the device in Healthcare and Medical Education, as well as an advisor to many start-ups and individuals who saw in this technology a true, exponential breakthrough in the computing device platform. Alongside, gave three TEDx talks related to GoogleGlass in Healthcare and Education (http://youtu.be/fo3RsealvGI http://youtu.be/DVzkw7y4_u4 http://youtu.be/k_d0vfgBYm4

BUT we have yet to see, much beyond its intuitive applications.

The fact that Glass has a second camera that points towards the wearer’s eye, a forward camera, a microphone, a bone conduction audio transducer, a touchpad, a gyroscope, a GPS, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a magnetometer, an ambient light and proximity sensor and that it is head-mounted, in contact with the skin of the forehead, gives it incredible leverage to develop as a multi-tasking device in medicine.

Glass can detect you eye movements and hence its ability to translate those movements into commands. Imagine navigating your screen, texting, typing, etc. , just by looking to different directions. It might sound silly, but think of quadriplegics (a person paralyzed from the neck down), and how this feature could open marvelous opportunities for then to functionally reintegrate, back to life.

Some time ago, I tried “The Muse” (@ChooseMuse   www.choosemuse.com ) and also became fascinated with it. It is basically a portable, wearable EEG (Electro-encephalogram, to detect, read and display your brain waves). It just works! You put it on, sync it with the app in your smartphone, and it displays an indirect measurement of your brain’s electrical activity. Plain amazing! Just imagine the potential to help you “train” your brain, to learn to focus, relax, meditate, provide biofeedback, etc.  Think PTSD therapy! http://youtu.be/YI5uXlTnNms

And then, I thought, this goes pretty much in the same position, in your forehead were Glass usually sits; how about integrating Google Glass + Muse, and add this incredible feature to the mix?

How about navigating the Glass menu with your brain’s electrical activity? (Think: “OK Glass, take a picture”!). Or train your brain, again with instant feedback, to give commands and navigate a computer screen menu. http://youtu.be/ogBX18maUiM

Then, a few days ago, I read and article and watched a video, from a group in MIT/Georgia Tech, who is developing the fantastic idea to use the many embedded systems within Glass (the gyroscope, the magnetometer, the accelerometer, etc.), to basically provide accurate measurements of heart frequency and breathing rate (BioGlass). In addition to the obvious uses in medicine and fitness, this functionality could potentially detect your alertness and anger levels, whether you are falling asleep or not paying enough attention.

Now you could be relaxing and slowing your brain’s activity, and getting immediate feedback on your cardiac and respiratory rates…Awesome. A yogi’s dream!   http://youtu.be/-t4PkEbowJg

As a surgeon, I also envision its uses in medical care, allowing patients, and providers, the right state of mind to undergo a procedure, to control pain with drug-free anesthesia or analgesia, to perform a procedure in a relaxed state, taking away pain, stress and frustration…

There’s another very clever gadget that allows your forearm muscles’ electric activity to be translated into commands to drive your electronics, and navigate their menus, allowing you to use hand gestures instead of a touch pad or a mouse; it’s called “The Myo”. WWW.thalmic.com

For sometime now, I’ve been playing with it and engaging with developers who are kindly sharing their software “spells” and abilities to help me trial and evaluate an integrated Glass-Myo interface.  http://youtu.be/b8xGfzoP58E

I can go thru the Glass menu and screens just by moving my hand. Since this device “reads’ the electrical signals at the muscle level, then it potentially can act as an EMG (Electromyogram), and not just read but also evaluate muscular activity (think of the many muscular disorders that could benefit from this); couple this with The Muse, and you come up with a tool to give instant brain feedback related to muscular contraction and movement (Tai-Chi on steroids!), allowing the training, re-training and/or tuning of a particular group of muscles.

As I have said many times before, I think that Google Glass represents the beginning of the natural evolution of the computer (computing) platform.

Technology develops and progresses exponentially.

Google Glass use and applications are only limited by our creativity and imagination, and only the future will tell what’s possible and Beyond.

Stay put and don’t change the channel.

Thanks for reading.


Rafael Grossmann, MD, FACS

Follow in Twitter @ZGJR for more updates and to contact me.




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