Study: Google Glass Potentially Helpful for Parkinson's Patients

Wearing Google Glass may help Parkinson's disease patients manage their condition and restore some independence, according to a new study.

Parkinson's disease is marked by a loss of motor skills and tremors, which can both be embarrassing and potentially dangerous for patients. Researchers from Newcastle University and the University of Sussex in the U.K. explored the potential of Glass to deliver discreet treatment reminders to patients and allow patients to make excursions out of the home with confidence.

In the study, a group of five patients and two of their caregivers wore Glass both in the home and out. The study participants were overall pleased with the technology, noting the voice commands were much easier for them to use than a touch screen and allowed them to feel confident that if they fell or encountered trouble while out by themselves, caregivers could see what they saw through Glass, know where they were and come get them.

Google Glass was also used to display medication and other treatment reminders right in the patients' fields of vision. "I was taking two or three different drugs every two hours, different combinations at different times of the day; some with water, some with food, the instructions are endless," said one participant in a news release. "Having a reminder that is literally in your face wherever you are and whatever you are doing would really help."

Despite the promise of the technology, researchers worried the technology could create a dependence in the wearers as well as further stigmatize them. "The last thing we want is a system of cueing which is so obvious it adds to people's overall embarrassment," said Roisin McNaney, one of the study's authors, in the release.

However, the benefits may outweigh the potential for embarrassment, especially as wearables become more mainstream, according to the researchers. "Wearable computing is still quite novel but as more people buy into the technology and start to wear it out and about for leisure then systems such as Glass offer us a real opportunity for the long-term treatment of progressive conditions," said Ms. McNaney in the release.

The researchers are also exploring ways to use Glass' motion sensors to allow the device to sense when a Parkinson's disease patient is experiencing difficulties and contacting a caregiver for help.

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