School of Computing


Google Glass for people with Parkinson’s

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurological condition affecting up to 10 million people worldwide. It manifests itself in motor symptoms including rigidity, tremor and bradykinesia, or slowness of movement. These affect an individuals balance, gait, arm and facial movements. In this project we are collaborating with people with Parkinson's to explore how Google's Glass technology can be used as a platform for to help these individuals manage their condition. This device incorporates a miniature computer, a micro-display and contains sensors that measure head and eye movements, a microphone for ambient sound pickup, and a front-facing camera. Most importantly, it holds this in the form of a small spectacle-like design – and as a consumer product, it will likely be on the market in the next few years.

We are involving people with Parkinson's as 'Glass Explorers' in this project: we are holding co-design workshops with groups, giving participants a Glass to take home for short period of time and use in their everyday life, and capturing their experiences with this new technology. We have published a paper on our initial findings, which won a Best Paper award at the 2014 ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems conference. In the paper we highlighted generally positive responses to Glass as a device that instils confidence and safety in our participants when wearing it out and about. At the same time, participants have raised concerns about the potential for the technology to reaffirm dependency on others and stigmatise those who wear it, especially as it is still seen to be an unusual and 'niche' product. We are now exploring the ways in which aspects of the Glass can be redesigned and repackaged so as to remove these potential barriers to use.

We are now developing a range of new applications to be trialled by our participants, which will provide cues to them to aid them in speaking loudly, to walk at a normal pace, and to help their balance. We are also co-designing a number of other applications with those who have used the Glass for extended periods of time, looking at new ways for participants to monitor and track changes in their condition over time.