The up-and-coming technological frontier features wearable tech that readily provides social media, email, phone calls and text message updates. Everyone from high-school students to physicians can have this technology at the tips of their fingers — or rather eyebrows — when wearing Google Glass. Luckily, physicians will not be updating their social media feed while providing healthcare when using Google’s new technology.

Google launched its Glass Explorers Program last year for select consumers and developers to test Google Glass. Among the Explorers includes Dr. Ismail Nabeel, an assistant professor of general internal medicine at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

Dr. Clay Marsh, Chief Innovation Officer at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, said that Dr. Nabeel saw the potential of Glass to be used for medical advancement.

“Ismail approached me with a proposal to explore the potential of Google Glass for medical applications,” Dr. Marsh said. “We could potentially use Glass to broadcast a live feed to bring the patient’s family into the operating room.”

Google Glass was developed within Google’s major technological advancement branch Google X and is a device worn as a pair of glasses, but with an optical head-mounted display in lieu of lenses. The electronic components lie on the right side of the wearer’s head and feature an outward facing camera and display that is projected onto a prism a few centimeters in front of the eye. It boasts voice recognition, a touch pad and comes in three styles of shade: edge, classic and active. To navigate menus hands-free, wearers can simply tilt their head up and down or give a voice command.

Olaoluwa Osuntokun, third-year computer science major at UCSB and Glass Explorer, compared Google Glass to a faint, miniature television screen.

“Google Glass is like having a translucent television that is floating at the top right of your field of vision,” said Olaoluwa.

Dr. Nabeel took advantage of Google Glass’ ability to broadcast live video via Google Hangouts. Dr. Christopher Kaeding, the executive director of Ohio State University Sports Medicine, used Dr. Nabeel’s Glass this past August to live-broadcast a knee surgery to medical students at the Ohio State College of Medicine.

Dr. Marsh and Dr. Nabeel each said that Glass can be used as a teaching tool because it can broadcast additional surgical procedures or record video files for later use. Glass can also be used to bring in a doctor with a specific expertise into the operating room via video conference.

“One thing I really enjoy about using Glass is that it allows me to speak to Google Glass collaborators who do not know what I do on a daily basis, but they understand my roles,” Dr. Nabeel said. “It puts unconventional people together and that creates innovation.”

One concern about using an electronic device in an operating room is that it must be kept sterile. Dr. Nabeel described an advantage of using Glass is that “the sterility of the room is not compromised because I do not have to touch Glass.”

With further development Glass could be implemented in other medical departments, potentially helping physicians in filling out and reading electronic medical records.

“In the future I could be doing my rounds, and if I need to see lab work, I do not have to walk to a computer. I can just stand at the patient’s bedside while looking at heart monitor data and blood pressure,” Dr. Nabeel said. “Displaying information in real time can help a physician make a decision and that has a high value.”


A version of this story appeared on page 6 of Wednesday, February 5, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.