By: Paul Karpecki, OD, FAAO
Director of Education – PECAA
Augmented reality such as wearable technology is a fascinating area. It allows people insights ranging from driving and walking directions, weather, email, social media, and even potentially language translation, to insights about nearest ATM, coffee shop etc. This all seems valuable to the consumer, but is there an application to eye care and to the eye care practioner (ECP) in particular? I definitely believe there is and now is the time for ECP’s be learning about it.
These technologies have actually been around for some time but were bulky and odd looking. In fact they were once called ‘Head Mounted Displays’, which is fitting given what they did and looked like. Times have changed and many of these newer versions look and feel like normal glasses you’d see in an ECP’s office. Some are more futuristic and others are simple but there are a few that look like true spectacles or sunglasses. One in particular even involves the fitting of contact lenses in addition to spectacles that allow for better movement in all directions. (Innovega)
Prescription ready spectacles means there is a key role for eye doctors.
What is interesting about the spectacle versions is that most come prescription ready (e.g. LaForge Optical). Meaning they just need their ECP to provide the Rx glasses component and thus there is a key role for the eye doctors.
GOOGLE GLASS is actually a late-to-the-scene technology, but it created great awareness of the field of Augmented Reality, which had previously remained in obscurity.
These systems have built-in cameras; sensors, microphones, magnifiers and can offer resolutions that are far greater than the human eye can see. They switch to magnifying images, telescopic resolution and various displays and overlay technology to see the physical world. One technology has actually been around for ophthalmic surgery for over 7 years and is involved surgical augmented reality through 3-D glasses with various overlay views including toric axis placement, incision placement etc. (TrueVision Systems Inc.)
Current augmented reality glasses would vary depending on content and the amount of involvement required. For example, someone wishing to only do email and get directions may require a lesser spectacle set up, but someone wanting extensive augmented reality scenarious, gaming or movies, would require an advanced set of frames.
Now is the time for the Eye Care Professional to understand wearable technology & augmented reality.
Although these wearable technologies are still thought to be in new or futuristic technology, the fact is that they are going to be part of our future. It requires that ECP’s understand what it currently and may mean in the future to our practices, our patients and the opportunities that may exist. Google glass has created incredible awareness of augmented reality products such that few people have not heard of wearable technology or even augmented reality. It shed light on how much is already available and what the potential can be. Now is the time to understand these technologies and their potential applications for our patients. If patients ask about it, at least our PECAA doctors will be able to answer their questions and many times just the ability to effectively answer a patient’s eye related questions (including augmented reality) is sufficient to make that patient a life-long member of the practice.