Google Glass' amazing medical usages (Warning: You may end up missing an organ)

Google Glass' amazing medical usages (Warning: You may end up missing an organ)

Summary: Google's device can revolutionize teaching in the medical field and diagnostics in rural areas, but there will have to be usage rules so patients don't suffer.

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glass heart

It was clear, right from the day that Google introduced Google Glass to the world that the device would bring in its wake substantial controversy as well as life-altering innovation. One of the most anticipated outcomes, other than a cottage industry of POV pornos, was what the device could do in the medical field.

Recently, heart Surgeon Pavan Kumar affiliated to the Nanavati Hospital in Mumbai, was feted by the Indian press for conducting an open heart surgery while wearing one of the devices, although almost every account of it in Indian newspapers, including the one sourced here, didn't really indicate what he did with the device. It's a safe guess that he probably recorded the operation.

However, the real groundbreaking potential of the device and a hint of the Blade Runner era that we are entering was exhibited a little earlier this year when a surgeon at The Royal London Hospital donned the device while extracting the cancerous tissue from the liver and bowel of a seventy-eight year-old man, and live-streamed the operation to 13,000 surgical students around the world from 115 countries who had jacked in using their computers and mobile phones.

glass surgeon

Naturally, this is spectacular stuff when it comes to teaching complex medical operations. Not so long ago, a handful of students would have the privilege of huddling around a corpse on a slab while a surgery professor would dig in (as of course Kiefer Sutherland’s tour de force 'Flatliners' so expertly shows and which is where I have attained most of my medical knowledge). Now doctors can teach hundreds and thousands of aspirational surgeons while operating, give other medical students a flavor of what to expect in the operating room and have experts in other parts of the world join in on tricky cases. 

For a country like India, which has one doctor for every 2,000 people, and most of them concentrated in 120 cities or so, this is a pivotal invention. Now, underserved areas have one additional tool through which examinations can be conducted in real time and where case histories can be recorded using the device, uploaded in a flash and scrolled through without turning away from the patient, all using simple voice commands.

More importantly, instead of sending a patient in a remote area to a specialist who tend to be a fair distance away, the general physicians can now easily help a specialist remotely conduct an examination using Glass. Glass can also become a reference library for images that will help in diagnosis, as well as a training aid for senior doctors to keep tabs on and evaluate residents' procedures, in real time if necessary.

Of course, these developments have come with their fair share of controversy—apparently the Royal London surgery allowed students to type in questions which then appeared on the bottom left hand side of the Google Glass worn by the surgeon who then verbally answered them. This, some people think, is kind of like texting while driving on which Film director Werner Herzog did a documentary recently.

glass cpr

The thinking, no doubt, is that you may have gone in for a gall bladder operation but by the time the surgeon answers all the questions popping up in his eyepiece texted in from his over-ambitious surgeons-to-be students, you may come out minus a testicle with all the distraction going on. There are also privacy concerns which this Atlantic article details.

Plus, as the piece points out, the resolution of the Google Glass 5MP camera isn't all that hot and the angle with which the camera records may not be particularly helpful for watching a surgery. In order to focus the camera on the action effectively, the surgeon may have to crane her neck at an awkward angle, and may herself require a quick trip to the operating theatre for her severely strained neck muscles. Of course, these are things that can easily be adjusted for optimum performance (hopefully the device, that is, and not the human).

Whichever way you look at it, get ready for the Google Glass—emphatically described as a consumer device by the company—to be used in all kinds of amazing and controversial professional capacities.

Topics: Google, India, Google Apps

Rajiv Rao

About Rajiv Rao

Rajiv is a journalist and filmmaker based out of New Delhi who is interested in how new technologies, innovation, and disruptive business forces are shaking things up in India.

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18 comments
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  • Old stuff

    We already have surgery simulators which are very good. The gadget is a useless component.
    Buster Friendly
    • Surgey simulators

      And how much do they cost, in comparison with Google Glass?

      Seriously, it's not that bespoke hardware for this sort of thing doesn't already exist. It's that with Google Glass you're going to be able to accomplish comparable results for much less money, because it's not a device designed to do just one thing. It's designed for a myriad of applications.
      dsf3g
      • Cheaper

        They cost as much as the PC to run the software. You can't actually wear something like that in an OR like that silly picture. It's not tested and certified for that application and you've got to know exactly what to do long before you pick up a knife.
        Buster Friendly
        • Wrong again Buster!

          "was exhibited a little earlier this year when a surgeon at The Royal London Hospital donned the device while extracting the cancerous tissue from the liver and bowel of a seventy-eight year-old man, and live-streamed the operation to 13,000 surgical students around the world from 115 countries who had jacked in using their computers and mobile phones."

          Now go back to playing with windows.....
          BoxOfParts
  • Glass = Segway

    I strongly suspect that Google Glass is going to en up as the new Segway: a device that was super hyped and ridiculed at the same time, then wound up finding a few niche markets where it managed to make itself useful.

    People aren't going to all start wearing Google glass everyewhere they go, just as peopl didn't stop walking or bicycling and ake up Segways. But just as industries such as tourism and law enforcement have found a use for Segways, I strongly suspect there will be industries where having a wearable HUD will prove useful.
    dsf3g
    • It's not like it's new

      That seems to assume this is a new concept which it isn't. Wikipedia has a good list of similar projects going back since before there was a Google. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optical_head-mounted_display
      Buster Friendly
  • Bahahaha... Colossal failure

    Another super failure from a company whose products are nothing but stolen stuff...
    Owl:Net
    • Wrong article

      Sorry bud, wrong article, this is about Glass, not about the iPhone.
      AnomalyTea
    • Another child with no adult supervision

      has access to the web.
      daikon
    • Don't remind us

      what a Colossal failure you are.

      We already know...
      BoxOfParts
  • Just to be clear...

    Looking at your phone while driving = extraordinarily bad

    Looking at GoogleGlass while performing open heart surgery = good

    OK. Just wanted to make sure I had it straight.
    SbySW
    • HUD displays good

      For critical things as... combat, where life can be at constant risk.
      Small differences can make all the difference...
      AleMartin
      • keyword = CRITICAL

        Keyword = CRITICAL. Apparently, no one knows *what* the googleglass was doing. If it was for student observation or 'rebroadcast' -- those hardly seem 'critical' enough to warrant the distraction.

        I wonder if the patient consented to having their surgery recorded for viewing by unknown persons? Clearly, when you are a patient in a hospital, you *do* have an expectation of privacy when it comes to procedures performed upon your body.
        SbySW
  • Remote diagnosis help

    From the article:

    "More importantly, instead of sending a patient in a remote area to a specialist who tend to be a fair distance away, the general physicians can now easily help a specialist remotely conduct an examination using Glass."

    This can be a big help in disaster areas where first responders may need additional help from a specialist.
    BoxOfParts
  • Amazingly limited vision

    I am always amazed that on a website for technology news to it professional that so many people have such limited vision for new tech or that they are so balkanized in their tech preferences that they cannot at least be somewhat excited by new possibilities.

    Whether it is Google glass or something similar, I can envision all kinds of really good applications for a product like this. Drone technology is exciting, but in this case, we have the ability to send in humans and have them get immediate feedback from a number of viewers, perhaps a number of experts. Or how many places could you use instant feedback on a job that you are doing.

    I already use instructional videos and pictures to fix any number of things around the house and in my business. How handy would it be to have a heads up display that I could stream the video of how to fix that Ipod, carburetor, or close an open wound and compare it to what I am currently doing.
    littlemas2
    • the skill of fixing

      is in the hands rather than in the eyes.
      to convey how good we at doing something we say that we 'can do it with our eyes closed'.
      So as an educational or survivalist tool, it is great. but in every day use - I hope not.
      ForeverSPb
  • More hating on the best tool for the job?

    Its clear that so many have no clue.
    Altotus
  • web cam

    can please someone explain which tasks (except when the surgeon is texting and cutting) can not be done with just a webcam? with all this screaming and yelling one might think that google has just invented video broadcasting.

    besides, just how do they sterilize the gg which sits right over the operation field? If you notice, everyone is wearing special surgical gear, and those glasses is the only thing that obviously did not go through the steamer machine before the operation.

    no wonder there are so many doctors doing it in India where patients probably have little rights and little choice.

    the surgeon must only be concerned with the operation, and not how it may look on the screen. he or she is probably paid more for the show than for the operation, so why not just hire a camera guy, and be civilized?

    I would never go into an operation with the doctor wearing gg. It is potentially distracting and not hygienic.
    ForeverSPb