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When Google Glass, the latest future tech project from Google’s top secret Google X division (the same folks behind Google’s much hyped driver-less cars) was released to developers for testing in early 2013, the device was slated to be used by everyone from extreme sports aficionados to comedians. But few probably predicted that it would take just a few short months to show up in life altering applications. If one were to poll a select group of futurists about how they thought Google Glass could be used, it’s likely that operating rooms would be far down their list.
Dr. Pierre Theodore, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the UCSF Medical Center, clearly thought differently. Not only did he apply to and get accepted in Google’s early adopter program (one of the first groups of consumers to receive access to the Google Glass hardware), but for the last several months, he’s been testing the product during live operating procedures.
His findings? Essentially, Google Glass shows promise in the operating room, but it still has a long way to go.
In his experiments, Theodore primarily used Glass as a means for viewing important secondary information, such as X-rays or CAT scan images. Normally, doctors have to leave the operating table to view this information on external monitors or computers, which slows down the procedure and introduces a costly time variable at a time when quick access to information is paramount. With Glass, Theodore was able to view supplementary information about his patients immediately.
Glass, however, was not without its problems. Chief among them were its reliance on a stable and ever present wifi connection, weak voice commands, and lack of a hands free mode. On multiple occasions, Theodore had to employ the use of an assistant to use the touch controls so that he could maintain proper hygiene.
Still, Glass represents a potential leap forward in visual operating room technology with multiple implications for both the performance of surgeons and as a consequence, the health of their patients. With Glass at their disposal, doctors will have access to a wealth of patient information and other resources in a visual technology package that’s almost ideal for the medical field.