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New Software Might Make Google Glass a Personal Health Tool

Google Glass could become a personal health tool. Despite eschewing biomarker capabilities, researchers are investigating how the head-mounted technology can collect personal health information by using visual and gyroscopic detections.

Research groups at Affective Computing Group in the MIT Media Lab and Georgia Institute of Technology have completed a test of sensors embedded in Google Glass to track the wearer's physiological signals. 

Bioglass gathers data by using gyroscopic measurements. Heartbeats change the body in subtle ways that for head-mounted technology can detect. Measured waves match data collected by heart-rate monitors.

"Gyroscope and accelerometer sensors located above the right eye can capture the accelerations and rotations of the head associated with physiological activity," a video outlining the technology explains.

Applications include camera-capture of stress triggers, which could set off relaxation mechanisms like a cue to play soft music, and vital signs during exercise. Researchers will present a paper on their findings at the MobiHealth conference in Athens, Greece, in November.

At the same time, Fraunhofer Institute in Germany has made a real-time emotion detection app for Google Glass: SHORE. The SHORE -- Sophisticated High-speed Object Recognition Engine - system is an object-detection-computer-vision system turned face-detection-and-fine-facial-analysis system. It assesses the age, gender, and emotions of the people it encounters.

All analysis is kept in the device, not shared, cubing privacy concerns over data potentially sensitive in nature. Applications of SHORE include real-time emotion detection for people with autism, who often struggle to interpret facial expressions. Less helpful on a personal level, SHORE could also measure people's attention to particular advertising campaigns and aid marketers to better target their strategies.

Google Glass has been tested in ambulances and operating rooms, where vital patient information can be sent to doctors. Downsides of the device have been reported, however, as users experience eye strain and headache. A health care monitor that causes health problems could be questionable.

Google has explored other wearable healthcare monitoring tools this year. In January, the company met with the FDA to discuss Google's planned contact lens for diabetics. The lens would monitor blood glucose levels, eliminating the need for skin pricks to draw blood for measurements.

Refresh your medical device industry knowledge at MEDevice San Diego, September 10-11, 2014.

Anastasia Thrift is a contributor to Qmed and MPMN.

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