Could Google Glass Really Help People with Parkinson's?

While the world has been squabbling about Glassholes, doctors have quietly been testing the potential of Google Glass in medicine. Features that may seem silly to use in a cafe or on the subway have real advantages in the doctor's office. Hand-free control? Remote diagnosis? On-demand medical records? Check check check. Now researchers are testing how Glass could benefit patients with Parkinson's.

The tremors that come with Parkinson's make it different to use touchscreens. If you've ever typed without autocorrect (or even with autocorrect!), you know how difficult it is to manipulate those tiny keys. Now try typing with boxing gloves, which is how Parkinson's patients often feel between doses of medication.

In a study at Newcastle University in the UK, patients also reported how Glass's augmented reality could help with "freezing." Parkinson's patients will sometimes feel their legs suddenly freeze and a need to focus their sight on a line in front of them. They'll sometimes carry laser pointers for this purpose, but Glass could serve the same function. Glass could also deliver discrete notifications to take drugs or to swallow and prevent drooling, a common problem with lack of motor control.

The five pairs of Glass used in the study were donated by Google, who is undoubtedly looking for some good publicity about its oft-mocked wearable. A hands-free device really does seem promising for anyone who struggles with touchscreens, be it from Parkinson's, cerebral palsy, or another disease that affects motor control. But how well would it work with patients whose disease has affected their speech? I also wonder if you really need $1,500 computer perched on your face for the other purported benefits of Glass.

Anyone might have more personal experience with Parkinson's, I'd like to hear from you. Do you use touchscreens and do think you Google Glass would help? [Newcastle University]

Top image: A patient with Parkinson's in the study wearing Google Glass. Mike Urwin/Newcastle University