The Internet of Things: A Look Into The Social Implications of Google Glass
Public Health Problems and Promise
Aside from its social implications, Google Glass has also been studied for use in health care and medicine. Glass could potentially facilitate video communication between doctors, and make complex tasks, such as filing and record keeping, much simpler (Muensterer, 2014). Using image sharing, doctors could also easily access a medical history while talking with a patient. This could potentially speed up appointments and procedures (Muensterer, 2014).
A study tested the applicability of Google Glass in a medical setting by having a doctor wear Glass in a University Children’s Hospital for four weeks (Muensterer, 2014). The researchers tested ergonomics, input control, battery life, audio quality, video quality, functionality, available applications, video lag time, environmental acceptance, and coding quality (Muensterer, 2014). The results of this study uncovered some significant drawbacks to Google Glass in a medical setting, including the short battery life. Doctors need a product that can operate for up to 24 hours, as they have grueling schedules (Muensterer, 2014). Another drawback is the lag time of Google Glass when used for recording and video conferencing (Muensterer, 2014). Video on Glass is low resolution, which makes it hard for important information to be effectively shared. As far as applications go, there are currently no programs on Glass that are effective for the medical community (Muensterer, 2014). There also remains the issue of privacy (Muensterer, 2014). Privacy in reference to medical records is significant, and in order for Google Glass to be used in the medical field, the issues would have to be cleared up (Muensterer, 2014).
While the drawbacks seem to be significant, there are also some positive implications for Google Glass in the medical field (Muensterer, 2014). According to the study, the convenience of having a hands-free device completely changed the researchers’ everyday practice (Muensterer, 2014). In an operating room, the hands-free device allows recording from the surgeon’s point of view, without having to compromise the sterile environment (Muensterer, 2014). This could potentially have a positive impact on educational research since the procedures can be seen through the eyes of the surgeon himself (Muensterer, 2014). The Internet connectivity of the device also has positive implications. Rare case information and questionable answers can be found in real time (Muensterer, 2014). Immediate access to information could also help with the accuracy of symptom checks and diagnosis (Muensterer, 2014). With a few updates, it appears that Google Glass could eventually have a positive effect on health care and medical education.
Engineering Flaws and Limitations
Google Glass Explorers program kicked off with enthusiastic support from the volunteer beta-testers, but unfortunately never made it past that point – Glass was recently taken off the market. The release was sudden and some sources believe that Google made a mistake in releasing the product before it was more developed (Metz, 2014). There were many flaws, including the physical structure. Glass is obtrusive, sticking out aggressively to third parties, and somewhat blocking the user’s line of sight (Metz, 2014). However, this “bulk” is the battery-power location, and with a product that is supposed to run all day, it is a very important detail (Metz, 2014). This style flaw may play a large role in the societal rejection, as it plays into the cost-benefit calculus of the product (Metz, 2014). If the product looked bulky, but had incredible, groundbreaking applications and quality, then it quite possibly could have thrived long enough to improve its form factor, much as cell phones have (Metz, 2014). However, the product’s applications are average at best, much less varied and capable than a smart phone but with an intriguing user-interface (Metz, 2014).
Future Versions of Glass
Google has announced that there will be a re-release called Google Glass 2.0. Not much information has been released to the public, but they may be quietly letting private health and business settings in on the new product (Barr, 2015). Glass 2.0 has a different structure, and is more of a mini-computer than a bulky eyeglass set. This mini computer can be detached from a pair of glasses and moved to another, essentially removing the “style” responsibility from Google altogether. Glass 2.0 also supposedly has a stronger battery life and an improved connectivity (Barr, 2015). This device is not for the general public, but its removability, battery life, and strong wireless connection have promising implications for use within private enterprises, which could reduce privacy concerns (Barr, 2015). I believe that this quieter, more focused release is a smart step in the adoption process of Google Glass. It may provide enough distance and time for the general public to consider the positive implications and to feel safe around the product.
The societal implications of Google Glass as a new technology are sweeping. While the privacy concerns are a drawback, the product’s hands-free interface provides a new take on familiar smartphone technology. The augmented reality aspect of the product could potentially shift the trajectory of digital communication devices, allowing users to do things like navigating communicating, and shopping on an entirely different level. When the new and improved Google Glass is eventually rereleased for the general market, Google will likely have to address the current cost and benefit issue. As for the possible health care implications, a few updates could lead to Google Glass making a groundbreaking difference in the medical community.
The problems that plagued Google Glass – privacy, engineering, and cost – have been widely publicized, much more so than the actual areas where this early wearable technology shows promise. Google has the resources and the will to continue developing this technology, focusing on high-value areas like retail augmented reality for consumers and health sciences for business. As society’s values catch up with the technology, it will open up possibilities and may indeed get to the point where the privacy concerns dissipate and the majority of people spend their days with wearable computers in front of their eyes.
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