The launch of Google Glass, though initially celebrated by the hardcore nerd crowd, was generally greeted with derision, scorn and outright hostility in some cases. After a few short months of trying to generate buzz in a largely disinterested consumer market, Google packed up its toys and went back to the drawing board. At the time, the marketing campaign was somewhat tone-deaf to the general public’s growing privacy concerns and there really weren’t many practical applications that weren’t being done better and much less conspicuously on a smartphone or tablet. As of June this year, Google has refocused their efforts on wearable technology with a new team called Project Aura, and have been quietly shopping the next generation of Glass to tech-dependent industries like energy, manufacturing and healthcare.
Like a phoenix from the ashes!
One project that has caught some media attention is a clinical trial run by Stanford to test whether or not Google Glass could provide help to autistic children. Researchers have developed software that can identify basic human emotions when a Glass wearer looks at another person’s face, a social skill that is signficantly underdeveloped or absent in those affected by autism. One component of the program is a simple game in which the wearer is directed to find someone displaying a specific emotion, for example, someone who looks “happy,” and if the child “sees” someone who has a smile on their face, they receive points. The researchers hope that by gamifying the experience and reinforcing learning with instantaneous feedback, autistic children can develop skills that will assist them with interpersonal interactions. On top of this, the device can provide constant telemetric data about the wearer themselves, allowing researchers to gather detailed information on things like eye contact and whether or not the child is gradually becoming better at locating particular emotions.
After an early trial with 40 children in a lab environment, Stanford is launching the next phase of its clinical trial by expanding the run to 100 families in their own homes. The portable, connected nature of Google Glass seems particularly well suited for these types of applications, and you can bet we are only seeing the very beginnings of their potential applications in the medical field.