Some pretty exciting work is happening at Newcastle University’s Digital Interaction Group with researchers evaluating the potential of Google Glass to support people with Parkinson’s. Much of the work is relevant to other conditions that affect movement, including Stroke and Multiple Sclerosis.
The great thing about Google Glass for people with motor control problems such as tremors, is that it gets around the difficulties in trying to negotiate the touch screen of a phone, or when trying to press a panic button. This is because the technology can be voice-operated and links to the internet. So in an emergency you can just tell it to call someone and it will.
One application the researchers are exploring is how the motion sensors in Glass can be used to unlock the brain when it ‘freezes’ (a common symptom of Parkinson’s). Study volunteer, Lynn, explains this symptom and how Glass could help:
“It happens when the flat surface in front of you breaks up, or the space in front of you narrows such as a doorway. Revolving doors are particularly bad. Your legs gradually freeze up and the difficulty is getting started again. The brain seems to need a point beyond the blockage to fix on and people use different things – Ken [Lynn’s husband who is also a volunteer in the study] will kick the end of his walking stick out in front of him, but many people use laser pens to create a virtual line beyond the barrier. This is where Glass could really make a difference.”
Aside from the physical signs of conditions such as Parkinson’s, the emotional and social factors can be equally as devastating; for instance the anxiety and social isolation caused by the stigma around behaviours such as dribbling. Another application the researchers are working on is using the glasses to give discreet reminders to swallow to prevent this from happening. Prompts to remind people to take their medications are also being tested.
So nice one to the research team in the University’s Digital Interaction Group. And a thumbs up from this Editor (on this occasion) for the glasses we so often love to hate! University of Newcastle Press Release