Mission Impossible Now Possible with Google Glass

google-glassIn the beginning of Mission Impossible 2, Ethan Hunt receives his next assignment while rock climbing. The assignment comes via sunglasses showing him a screen directly in his field of vision giving him the necessary mission details.

Cool, but out-of-reach technology for most people. Maybe possible for the military but not for the average person, right?

When the series first began over a decade ago, sunglasses projecting move-like images and talking to you seemed unrealistic or at least simply out of reach for civilians. But not anymore.

Instead of impossible, think Google Glass.

What is Google Glass?

Currently in use mostly by software developers and “early adopters” at a cost of $1,500 for an “Explorer Edition” pair, Google Glass does what we see Ethan Hunt’s sunglasses do in Mission Impossible 2 plus a lot more.

Google Glass, part of what’s being called “wearable computers,” are eyewear with a range of capabilities and features including;

  • Touchpad
  • Camera
  • Display
  • Voice activation
  • Wifi
  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Compass
  • Ambient light sensing & proximity sensor (ability to approximate human eye response to light and distance)
  • Bone conduction audio transducer (ability for sound conduction to the inner ear through vibrations in the bones of the skull)
  • Thermometer
  • Altimeter
  • Barometer

While Google Glass is not quite available for everyday use like we currently use smart phones, it’s coming. Not only that, but it’s already in use in a range of applications.

Current Google Glass Applications

Current application for Google Glass exists in a variety of settings including healthcare fields and the military with plans for use on safety glasses.

Within healthcare, Google Glass allows students to watch procedures, for documentation of procedures, and for tele-consulting with experts. Its uses also include communicating with families during a procedure as well as calming patients during procedures where physicians guide devices into the body (balloons to expand blood vessels and catheters to break up clots, for example).

Not new to the military, Google Glass technology, integrated with its Q-Warrior technology, appeals to military personnel who like its low use of power, its quick access to information, and that it doesn’t interfere with a soldier’s field of vision. Even though the technology has been in use within the military for a while, how it’s done is constantly improving.

Military application for Google Glass technology includes aiding in search and rescue missions and helping air traffic controllers in forward areas. The devices help in these and other situations by measuring distances, displaying 3D building layouts, and transmitting video from drones. Google Glass technology also allows for live streaming of data to soldiers on the ground including enemy position, position of fellow soldiers, maps of buildings and videos of what to expect around the corner or over the hill.

Another developing application for Google Glass technology involves integrating it with safety glasses. XOne is currently working on such devices, which would cost $400-$600 for the device plus $199/month for service. This seems like a lot but think of the money-saving potential from reduced down time needed for repairs as well as in its possibility for accelerating training programs.

In addition, through tele-consulting and real-time training, Google Glass presents a unique opportunity in the areas of production, safety, and beyond. Not only that, but technology is being developed to track individual worker’s statistics, such as how much they lift and the repetitive tasks they perform, to aid in preventing injuries and thus reducing production downtime.

Certainly, these current applications open the door to imagining even more wide-spread use such as for teams working in different locations, police officers working crowd control or trying to catch a fleeing criminal, and even ordinary citizens reporting news or other events in real-time. What seemed impossible a decade ago seems nearly endless now, doesn’t it?

Safety & Privacy Concerns

Along with any new technology, concerns abound, mostly those involving safety and privacy.

Privacy concerns include the increased ease and ability to record video and audio without someone knowing they’re being recorded. This surveillance potential unnerves a lot of people, especially those already regularly concerned with privacy violations as well as with the ease of use without someone’s knowledge. Evidence of such concerns comes from casinos that are banning the technology and current legislation in Russia and the Ukraine that “prohibits use of spy gadgets that can record video, audio or take photographs in an inconspicuous manner.” (See Smartglasses in Wikipedia.)

In addition to these privacy concerns are concerns over safety not unlike those that exist already with texting while driving. Distractions while using Google Glass along with the potential for an increasingly overwhelming amount of information all at once certainly gives merit to concerns over safety.

Everyday Consumer Use

While Google Glass isn’t quite at the everyday consumer-use level, it’s getting close. Google is currently collaborating with Loxottica, makers of Oakley and Ray-Ban, to “get more stylish” with frame designs that appeal to a wider audience and that are less conspicuous in public. Google is also working on making the technology available for those needing prescription lenses.

Making the devices even more appealing also involves Google adding its own apps along with the addition of a wide-range of additional apps being developed for this and other “wearable computers”. Those apps include Evernote, Skitch, The New York Times and a variety of other third party apps. In addition, the technology also involves data storage and integration with other devices like smart phones.

On a practical level everyone can relate to, Google Glass will allow you to do much of what you already do with your smart phone and then some. This includes…

  • Recording videos and take pictures hands free.
  • Receiving directions in front of you while driving
  • Texting truly hands free.
  • Sharing videos and photographs socially just by seeing and then talking.

And while Google may be slightly more visible in this field than anyone else, that doesn’t mean they’re the only name in the game. In fact, a plethora of other companies including Samsung, Microsoft and Apple are also working on their own versions of “wearable computers.” What do you see Google Glass technology doing for you?

3D and Vision Health

3D TV

While 3D technology has been around for over a decade,  it’s only made its way into the home fairly recently. Along with it comes concern over vision health, especially for young viewers. But is that concern justifiable?

Consumer Reports says no evidence currently supports the concern that prolonged or frequent viewing of 3D content could cause eye problems for most users. But, there are cautions involving specific groups of individuals.

Who Should be Cautious When Viewing 3D?

  • Individuals using handheld 3D devices. In a Consumer Reports article, the American Optometric Association says that “due to closer viewing distance, handheld 3D devices actually place higher demands on the eyes than do movies, so more frequent breaks are recommended.”
  • Young children. Nintendo 3D warns against use for children under 6 because of possibly causing vision damage in developing eyes, but experts say children over the age of 3 can view 3D safely.
  • The elderly. Aging eyes naturally become increasingly sensitive to glare and require higher contrast than younger eyes.
  • Children & adults with a family history of epilepsy.  “What are the Dangers of 3D Glassesexplains that these individuals may be at risk of a seizure or stroke due to the bright, flashing light portrayed in a 3D environment.

While no research exists supporting permanent damage specifically from viewing 3D, keep in mind that 3D glasses do manipulate eyes to see images on the screen as 3D, and this can cause eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, disorientation and nausea.

Eye Strain NOT a Problem Unique to 3D Viewing

In fact, HealthGuidance says that “watching any TV can cause some problems with eye strain and the reason for this is that eyes have to constantly adjust to changes in brightness and contrast.”

Prolonged 3D viewing as well as increased strain during the “training period” eyes go through when you first begin watching 3D on a regular basis DO cause eye strain, so be sure to use the following guidelines to ease that strain.

Note that many of these tips also apply to prolonged viewing any other type of screen (computer, regular television, etc.) as well.

  • Consider watching 3D at the theater when possible. Viewing theater 3D is not as bad for your eyes probably because of the fixed position of the audience along with the larger screen size.
  • Know what you’re watching. HealthGuidance says, “Things converted from 2D to 3D are often worse because they were never designed to be viewed in 3D and so have the biggest changes in depth.”
  • Take regular breaks. Allow eyes time to relax, especially when first start watching 3D to allow your eyes to be “trained” to view 3D.
  • Make adjustments. Lower the contrast & brightness on ALL TVs, so the TV won’t affect the brightness of the entire room, which means eyes have less adapting to do.
  • Use good habits for reducing eye strain in general. Understand the importance of Preventing & Reducing Eye Strain as well as Managing Electronic Display Eye Strain.
  • Consider viewing distance. 3D University.net says to, “Remember that viewing distance should be 3x or more the height of the screen.”
  • Sit with eyes level with the screen.
  • Have overall soft lighting in the room when watching 3D TV.
  • Turn off fluorescent lighting.
  • Block sources of direct sunlight before watching in 3D mode.
  • Rest eyes by looking away occasionally during your 3D viewing time.
  • Consider placement of your TV set for optimal lighting conditions.

Also, remember that watery eyes or any visual discomfort on a long-term basis while watching 3D or at any other time should be addressed with your physician since people who have problems with 3D viewing may have underlying issues caused by an undiagnosed eye problem. Again, no evidence suggests 3D viewing causes these long-term problems.

The key for 3D viewing – and really for ANY screen viewing – is moderation. To find out more about 3D viewing and eye health, check out the 3D Vision and Eye Health FAQ provided by the American Optometric Association.

Preventing & Reducing Eye Strain

Eye FatigueJust like muscles fatigue and strain through overuse during exercise, heavy lifting and even yard work, so too can eye muscles suffer fatigue and strain through overuse. And just like leg, back or arm muscles need time to rest and recuperate after times of extensive strain, eye muscles also need rest.

Common causes of eye strain resulting from overuse include:

  1. Extended use of electronics including computers, cell phones, tablets and televisions.
  2. Extended periods of intense focus such as when driving & reading.
  3. Underlying eye problems. Eye strain won’t cause these, but certain eye conditions can worsen eye fatigue.
  4. Extreme light exposure. Bright lights, glare and insufficient lighting all contribute to eye strain.
  5. Individual factors such as stress level and posture also impact intensity of eye strain.

Just like leg or arm muscle show clear signs of fatigue, so too do eye muscles. While everyone recognizes when eyes become tired, additional signs can help catch the situation before extreme fatigue sets in, which prevents the more debilitating symptoms like severe headaches and inability to focus.

Signs of severe eye fatigue include:

  1. Sore eyes
  2. Trouble focusing, double vision or blurred vision
  3. Dry, or watery eyes
  4. Light sensitivity
  5. Neck, shoulder or back pain

Fortunately, eye strain does not permanently damage eyes or change their anatomy. Unfortunately, strain on the eye muscles does significantly impact an individual’s productivity. In fact, up to 90% of computer workers experience eye strain, and WebMD says this discomfort could be responsible for up to 10 million eye examinations yearly. This number is expected to grow with the increasing use of handheld devices that cause added eye strain because of looking at small text sizes. WebMD also says digital devices may add to eye strain by causing individuals to blink less, resulting in tired, itchy, dry and burning eyes.

Yet another similarity eye strain holds with other types of muscle strain involves the many and varied ways for preventing and relieving the discomfort.

Suggestions for preventing and relieving eye strain include:

  1. Taking breaks. Eye experts, including those at the Mayo Clinic, recommend the 20-20-20 rule for preventing eye strain. This involves taking a break every 20 minutes from any activity causing eye strain. During that break, look about 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.
  2. Changing poor habits. In addition to taking frequent breaks, consider simply minimizing screen time. Other habits to consider changing include making sure you blink often enough and varying activities throughout the day.
  3. Paying attention to ergonomics. Simple ergonomic changes for reducing and preventing eye strain include choosing screens that tilt & swivel, using an adjustable chair, and placing a document holder next to your computer screen. Not only can these adjustments help eyes feel better, they will likely ease the strain on back and neck muscles too.
  4. Adjust lighting & contrast. Changes to lighting and general visibility can also help ease eye strain. Those changes include using a glare filter over computer screens, changing lighting to reduce glare and reflection, and adjusting desk position and/or using screens to avoid glare from natural light through windows. Also, simply cleaning smudges from computer screens helps a lot with improving visibility and thus reducing eye strain.
  5. Consider alternative approaches. Maybe you’ve done all of the above and still struggle with eye strain. Consider learning cupping as well as how to properly massage your eyes to help relieve eye strain. Other approaches include using artificial tears and resting eyes in complete darkness. Also consider wearing occupational glasses, such as computer safety glasses, to increase contrast perception and filter out glare and reflective light.

Even though eye strain does not permanently damage eyes, it definitely affects individual productivity. Even worse, though, is that impaired vision caused by eye strain can create safety issues resulting in a severely worse situation with more permanent consequences.

For your own comfort and safety and potentially that of others as well, decide on a few small changes you can make today to prevent and reduce eye strain. Chances are good that no one method for reducing eye strain will provide complete and permanent relief, so consider developing an eye rest routine combining the above suggestions to help prevent, reduce and relieve your eye strain.