Healthcare technology is continually evolving and adapting to trends that originate outside of the healthcare sector. Smartphones and tablets are now commonplace in many clinical environments, and these devices are being used for an increasing number of applications.
With the recent release of Google Glass, one has to wonder how long it will be until this new technology begins making waves in the healthcare industry. Currently, many of the discussions surrounding Google Glass’s application are nothing more than speculation. But eyeware computers have some unique characteristics. Kyle Samani, founder and CEO of Pristine, a startup that develops Google Glass apps for surgery, outlined these characteristics in a recent blog post.
The Marginal Value of Google Glass
Glass is just a computer. Nothing less, nothing more.
I previously identified four fundamental characteristics of Glass that make it unique. The only apps that will be successful on Glass will be those that take advantages of the new form factor.
1. Hands free
2. Heads up display
3. Friction free
4. First person camera
I just identified a 5th, and potentially a 6th unique characteristic of the Glass platform:
5. Head tracking. With the accelerometer and gyro, Glass understands head movements.
Although there aren’t too many practical mainstream applications for head tracking, it presents interesting opportunities in robotics and robotic surgery. On Glass today, I find the value of head tracking to be limited, but head tracking will grow to be a far more powerful concept when coupled with larger eyeware screens. With larger screens, one can easily imagine intelligent data overlays that automatically adjust to what you see as you move your head. Although this is technically feasible with Glass today, it’s just not practical given that Glass’s screen doesn’t obstruct the wearer’s vision.
6. One-way audio. The bone conduction speakers allows for near-silent one way audio communications. In a perfectly quiet environment, 3rd parties can decipher inbound audio, but generally speaking, it’s extremely difficult for non-wearers to hear what wearers are hearing. With one-way audio, Glass could be an interesting communications device in medicine in light of HIPAA regulations.
In addition to these two characteristics, I find the ambient light sensor to be intriguing. I consider it a subset of the 1st person camera. The 1st person ambient light sensor isn’t compelling enough to be a fundamentally unique characteristic, but it’s worth noting. I’m trying to envision the value of the light sensor in patient care environments, but I’m not coming up with much.
In retrospect, I should have identified all 6 of these when I wrote the original marginal value of Glass post in March. It’s actually easy to systematically identify them: just look at the hardware sensors and human computer interaction elements. They define the marginal value of the platform.
From an Infection Control standpoint, Google Glass will create a new roaming surface that will require frequent disinfection. The eyes and nose are among some of the most susceptible areas for germs and bacteria to enter the body, so these devices will require similar, if not more, care to prevent the spread of germs in a medical environment.
Overall Google Glass certainly has some very interesting characteristics that have the potential for a variety of applications. Time will tell how Google Glass will be applied in the healthcare industry, but for now we play the waiting game.
About the Author
Kyle Samani is Founder and CEO of Pristine, a well-funded startup based out of Austin, TX that’s developing apps for surgery on Google Glass. He also writes for one of the most prominent blogs in healthcare IT, HIStalk. The moment he saw Glass, Kyle began working on what would eventually become Pristine. He knew in seconds that Glass would change healthcare in more profound ways than smartphones and tablets have. After developing a business plan and recruiting a cofounder, Kyle and his cofounder Patrick Kolencherry quit their jobs to start Pristine. Pristine has raised $400,000 in seed funding, and employs 8 people today. Pristine is currently piloting their software with live patients in surgery at multiple medical centers and will be selling their solutions at the time of the commercial launch of Google Glass.