Parkinson's Patients May Retain Independence Using Google Glass
April 9, 2014

Parkinson’s Patients May Retain Independence Using Google Glass

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

Researchers as Newcastle University in the UK are studying how Google Glass can be used as an assistive aid to help people with Parkinson's disease -- the wearable technology might help patients retain their independence.

University researchers received five pairs of Google Glass as a donation from Google. The wearables allow researchers to test how people with long-term health conditions can use Glass. The University's Digital Interaction Group in Culture Lab, a part of the School of Computing Science, has been working with a group of Parkinson's volunteers between the ages of 46 and 70.

The research team initially focused on Glass acceptability within the group. Now that that focus has been met, the team is using the technology to provide discreet prompts linked to key behaviors typical of Parkinson's. Glass is being used to remind patients to speak up, or to swallow in order to prevent drooling. The wearable device is also being used to serve reminder messages for a patient to take medication, or in advance of appointments.

The study was led by Dr. John Vines, PhD, student Roisin McNaney and Dr. Ivan Paliakov. Findings will be presented at the ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2014 conference, which is taking place later this month in Toronto, Canada.

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

The group at Newcastle University are also looking into how the motion sensors on Glass can help people with Parkinson's who exhibit a "freezing" behavior, which is caused by motor blocking. The researchers believe Glass might be able to trigger the motor back into action.

Researchers are also building apps that address the needs of Parkinson's patients.

“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," said Dr. Vines. "What was really encouraging from this early study was how well our volunteers took to the wearable technology and the fact that they could see the potential in it.”

A number of health-related applications have been identified for Google Glass. The wearable device can assist people with various conditions by allowing them to complete tasks that are otherwise difficult, or help change behaviors or send reminders to help patients stay on their treatment regimen.

In the UK more than 120,000 people suffer from Parkinson's disease, the Daily Mail reports.

It is estimated that in the United States between 50,000 and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the National Parkinson Foundation.

The use of Google Glass to aid in treatment and allow patients to remain independent is a marked improvement in quality of life for Parkinson's patients.