Newcastle University research looks at Google Glass use for disease sufferers

Newcastle University experts are looking into the health role Google Glass could play in supporting people with long-term health issues

Dr. John Vines who is leading the Newcastle University research into the next generation of wearable computing
Dr. John Vines who is leading the Newcastle University research into the next generation of wearable computing

Five pairs of smart glasses donated to a North university could end up making life easier for people with long-term health conditions.

The next generation of Google Glass, which at first glance looks like a pair of designer spectacles, represents the latest generation of wearable computing.

The system works like a hands-free smartphone, displaying information on the lens of the Glass. The technology is voice-operated and linked to the internet.

Not currently available outside the US, the five pairs of Glass at Newcastle University were donated by Google to allow researchers to test how they could be used to support people with long-term health issues such as Parkinson’s and dementia.

A team based in the university’s Digital Interaction Group in Culture Lab, part of the School of Computing Science, have been working with a group of volunteers with Parkinson’s to retain their independence for longer.

They are examining using the technology to provide discreet prompts linked to key behaviours typical of Parkinson’s, such as reminding the individual to speak up or to swallow.

It can also be used as a personal reminder for items such as medication and appointments.

The team, led by Dr John Vines, PhD student Roisin McNaney and Dr Ivan Poliakov, will also be exploring how the motion sensors in Glass can be used to support people with “freezing” – a common symptom of Parkinson’s.

Partners Lynn Tearse, 46, and Ken Booth, 56, from County Durham, were among the volunteers to try out Glass.

“The potential for someone with Parkinson’s is endless. For me the biggest benefit was confidence,” said Ken.

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