Google Glass aids Parkinson’s research

Researchers at Newcastle University are investigating Google Glass as an assistive aid for people with Parkinson’s, to help retain their independence for longer. The researchers are part of the University’s Digital Interaction group, in its School of Computing Science.

Google Glass

Google Glass

Led by Dr John Vines, PhD student Roisin McNaney and Dr Ivan Poliakov, this is the first UK trial of Glass, says the university.

While not currently available outside the US at the moment, Google donated five pairs of Glass to Newcastle University for research into how they could be used to support people with long-term conditions.

Initial studies focused on the acceptability of Glass to a group of Parkinson’s volunteers aged between 46-70 years.

Now they are working on the next stage of the project, reports Newcastle, using the technology to provide discreet prompts linked to key behaviours typical of Parkinson’s. For example, reminding the individual to speak up or to swallow to prevent drooling. Google Glass can also be used as a personal reminder for things such as medication and appointments, says the university.

“Glass opens up a new space for exploring the design and development of wearable systems,” explains Dr Vines, who along with colleagues in Culture Lab is working on a number of projects investigating how technology can be used to support people in everyday life.

“It is very early days – Glass is such new technology we are still learning how it might be used but the beauty of this research project is we are designing the apps and systems for Glass in collaboration with the users so the resulting applications should exactly meet their needs.”

Parkinson’s UK has commented on the research work.

“This new study looking into Google Glass is an exciting example of how new technologies could be used to improve the lives of people living with Parkinson’s by tackling a wide variety of problems – from freezing to remembering to take their medication on time,” said Claire Bale, Research Communications Manager at Parkinson’s UK.

“But to really make the most of the potential of new technologies it’s essential that researchers work in partnership with the real experts in the condition – people living with Parkinson’s. Only people with the condition can tell us if these new approaches will genuinely improve their lives in meaningful and realistic ways.”

The team will be presenting their findings later this month at the ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2014 conference in Toronto, Canada.

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