Intuitive eyewear may yet transform the way we do business and deliver medicine. Mahesh Sharma reports.
Google Glass, the wearable computer by Google, and other eyewear devices have caught the attention of consumers and privacy advocates, and now businesses are envisaging a future manipulated by the intuitive hands-free technology.
While the futuristic spectacles have only made it onto the faces of a select group of people handpicked by Google in the US, corporations and start-ups alike have begun developing their own prototypes in the hope the new technology will transform the way business services are delivered.
Indian outsourcer iGATE is developing Glass applications so that wearable devices can be used in its own and its customers' businesses.
iGATE head of innovation research Anil Bajpai leads a team that is developing four applications for customers in a range of industries, including mining, where the outsourcer works with some of Australia's biggest resources companies.
Mr Bajpai told IT Pro one application would display documentation and manuals on the glasses' lens, allowing engineers to work unencumbered while repairing equipment in the mines.
"It can be difficult doing repairs inside the mine while you're holding a tablet device, trying to pull up the manual so you know how to fix something," Mr Bajpai said. "We're thinking about how we can provide easy access to that information, as well as two-way communication between the people in the offices and the mines."
He is also working on applications to more efficiently digitise healthcare patient records; use facial recognition to identify priority customers; and audit stock in a retail environment.
"We believe it is 40 to 45 per cent more efficient to use Google Glass to process healthcare records. We have more than 2000 people in the US, and many more in India, doing this work, so the device becomes cost effective over a period of three months to a year."
Surgery is also an area of great potential, according to Kyle Samani, who, along with Patrick Kolencherry, founded Austin, Texas start-up Pristine.
Mr Samani said the pair were building a suite of Glass apps for surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses to improve patient safety and efficiency.
While he was tight-lipped about specifics, Mr Samani said the apps would be piloted in August in the operating rooms of two large institutions. "We are going to change the entire structure of healthcare delivery models on Glass. Every medical professional in the country will use a Glass-like device in five years, and we're going to pioneer the way," Mr Samani said.
These devices can only transform the medical industry if they're widely adopted by patients and consumers, according to healthcare blogger Charles Webster, who has played with, and programmed, a Google Glass unit.
While Google Glass has led the charge to a wearable technology future, others are also joining the new gold rush. Italian start-up GlassUp has created a crowdfunding campaign to sell its eyewear. It looks like a regular pair of sunglasses and displays all information close to the centre of vision. However, it will only receive information and doesn't take photos.
German software developer SAP is developing augmented reality apps for a device built by Vuzix, so that workers and management, particularly in the field of warehousing and manufacturing, can access information in real time.