Is Google Glass the Future of Alzheimer's Care?

Megan Ray  |  February 3, 2014

When Google Glass was introduced by its namesake company last year, Google invited people to share how they would utilize them if given the opportunity to own the product. The wearable computer resembles a pair of futuristic sunglasses and allows the user to document life from a first-person perspective by taking and sharing pictures and video footage in real time.

One answer Google may not have anticipated, however, is the latest discovery in the eyewear's potential. The Huffington Post reported that some experts believe the glasses may soon be used as a tool for people with Alzheimer's disease. According to the source, Google Glass' many capabilities could help patients with the disorder navigate their world in a safer, more informed manner.

Using technology to mitigate wandering
Imagine this scenario: A resident of senior living with Alzheimer's is wearing Google Glass when they wander away from their home or forget where they were headed. Instead of this situation being a cause for panic, the individual could utilize the high-tech shades in a number of ways to lend them a helping hand. First, suggested experts, the glasses themselves could be programmed with a feature that offered prompts or reminders about their intended destination. Utilizing Google Maps integration, the glasses could even give them step-by-step directions to the location of their choice.

When combined with GPS tracking, Google Glass could also help family members find loved ones who wander away from home. Even if an exact location could not be determined, the video capabilities of the technology could allow relatives to see seniors' surroundings and use those as clues as to their whereabouts.

Google Glass as a memory tool
A second possibility suggested by members of the tech world has to do with memory loss and personal interaction. According to the source, Google Glass could serve as a "memory support system" for seniors who experience dementia by providing information about people based on facial recognition. The device could be programmed with a sort of personal social network, and when a face is "recognized" by the technology, the individual wearing the glasses would receive cues about the other person's identity. Basic information such as name, relationship and prior interactions could help patients with dementia or Alzheimer's by offering hints about the people around them, and prevent embarrassment about cognitive decline.

It is important to note that Google's current policy forbids facial recognition applications from being incorporated into their products, in consideration of users' concerns about privacy. The future of such technology will likely depend on public opinion and ensuring that products are aligned with legal privacy standards.

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