A wearable computer that can take pictures, record video and obey voice commands? Sounds like something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie, but in fact, this technology is available to the general public. It’s Google Glass, and even with a hefty $1,500 price tag, this mini-computer disguised as a pair of glasses may revolutionize the way we see the world. But the introduction of this new tech gadget has many questioning whether it can lead to vision problems.
Google Glass consists of a titanium frame that has been fitted with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD). It projects images onto a prism, which is placed over the right eye just outside your direct line of vision. Users simply have to glance upward to see the digital display, which can show emails, calls, GPS and even Hangouts. Although this portable piece of technology provides unmatched convenience, the constant upward movement of the eyes places users at increased risk for eye strain and fatigue.
Another concern is visual confusion. Binocular rivalry is a phenomenon that occurs when the eyes focus on two different objects at once and perception alternates between them. This may cause users to experience dizziness, confusion and disorientation. Another concern is phoria, a misalignment of the eyes which occurs when the eyes are not focusing on the same object.
Eli Peli, a professor of ophthalmology at the Harvard Medical School and a senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, has conducted extensive research on head-mounted displays and consulted with the Google Glass team over the last two years. Peli feels that the risk involved in Google Glass is quite minimal. As he explained in a recent interview, users may experience slight discomfort at first from repeated upward eye movement. However, as the eye muscles adapt over time, discomfort should diminish. As for visual confusion, Peli says that the risk involved is extremely small. However, he does point out that Google Glass is intended for micro-use, and that users should only focus on the digital display for a few seconds at a time (Source: Forbes).
Users should also note that Google warns against letting children under 13 wear Google Glass, as it can interfere with developing vision.
Although the long-term effects of Google Glass remain to be seen, one thing is for certain – technology as we know it will never be the same. As innovators find creative new ways to combine technology and convenience, we may find that computerized glasses are the way of the future. Who knows? The next pair of stylish spectacles you purchase might be capable of much more than correcting your vision!