Technology is amazing. Futuristic devices that we’ve seen in movies for the past decade or so are now a reality. Some are even affordable enough for the masses. Although arguably not very affordable, at $1,500.00 apiece, Google Glass is certainly a revolution in “wearable” technology. In our busy world when we all struggle to do 3 things at once, this is a major advantage. You can send a text or email, take a picture or video, post on social media, do a web search or watch streaming video ~ all with a voice command. Almost anything you can do with a computer, you can do with Google Glass – and you can do it hands-free.
There are, however, certain pitfalls of this technology particularly with regard to your eyes. The good news is: none of them are permanent and they’re manageable. In this blog post, we’ll outline the potential eye health pitfalls of Google Glass and provide simple solutions for these issues.
Pitfall #1: Eyestrain. Digital eyestrain is common and typically follows 2 or more hours of digital device use. This is caused by many factors. Blue light, which is the type of light emitted by digital devices, is one cause. Smaller font sizes can also cause the eye to strain to see it clearly. Lastly, it’s recommended that digital devices, as well as all reading material, be held at a comfortable distance (not too close to your eyes) and the most comfortable angle has been shown to be slightly below eye level.
Solution: Obviously, there are 3 components of Google Glass that can’t be changed: the type of light emitted from the device, the distance of the viewing screen from the eye and the angle of the screen – none of which are optimal for combating eyestrain. Your only solution for this pitfall is to address those components that you can change. Since digital eyestrain typically starts after 2 hours of digital device use, the best way to combat this is to take frequent breaks. Google Glass is not designed for watching a full length movie. So, if you do decide to use them for this purpose, you should break up the movie so that you’re not staring at the viewing screen for the entire length of the movie all at once. Take frequent breaks to rest your eyes. If possible, increase the font size on the device so that this doesn’t add additional strain on your eyes.
Pitfall #2: Ocular Dryness. When performing tasks such as prolonged reading and computer work, you blink 60% less than at other times. This lack of blinking exacerbates dryness, fatigue and discomfort that are often associated with office work. With Google Glass, you not only have these factors, but the added strain of looking up and to the right which studies have shown is one of the less comfortable positions for your eyes.
Solution: Use artificial tear drops every half hour when using Google Glass and take frequent breaks. This will also help you to remain more comfortable for longer when reading and working on your computer or smartphone. Read more about this in our blog entitled: Dr. Mandel’s Reading and Computer Tips.
Pitfall #3: Obstruction of Peripheral Vision. A recent study has shown that Google Glass can significantly reduce your peripheral vision on the right side where the screen is.[i] Since one of the natural blind spots when driving is located over your right shoulder, this can make driving considerably more dangerous. This peripheral vision loss also comes into play when crossing the street as a pedestrian and as a cyclist.
Solution: For the same reasons it’s a bad idea to drive while texting or wearing headphones, it’s a bad idea to drive wearing Google Glass. The peripheral vision obstruction aside, anything that distracts you and slows your reaction time when behind the wheel is just not safe. Therefore, your best solution is simply not wearing Google Glass while driving or cycling. As a pedestrian, when crossing streets while wearing Google Glass, don’t rely on your peripheral vision when looking to the right. Instead, turn your head fully to the right so that you can see oncoming traffic straight on.
While Google Glass may not be for everyone, it has certainly made life easier for many. Over 800,000 people already own this technology and sales are projected to exceed 21 million by 2018.[ii] As long as Google Glass is used as intended, it’s relatively safe. This technology is really designed more for quick searches than for watching a full-length movie. Although it can cause eyestrain, this isn’t permanent and can be managed by taking frequent breaks and using artificial tears every 30 minutes when you are using Google Glass. The device should not be worn while driving or cycling and should be worn with extra caution when navigating streets as a pedestrian, as it can obstruct a portion of your peripheral vision.