How Google Glass and Self-Driving Cars Can Change Medicine Forever


There are few companies in the history of the world as innovative and influential as Google. Yet, Google’s impact in the healthcare industry is basically absent after the failing attempt of Google Health. However, their two newest creations – Google Glass and Self-Driving Cars – have the potential to revolutionize medicine forever.

Google Glass

Just as with the iPad and other never-before-seen devices, their eventual uses are hard to predict. Google glass has gotten much criticism for its seemingly futile introduction of glasses into the saturated market of wearable technology. Yet, when one surgeon uses them to broadcast his surgeries to remote colleagues, people take notice. Dr. Christopher Kaeding, a surgeon at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, performed the first knee surgery wearing Google glass, live-streaming it to students and physicians, allowing them to vicariously experience his surgical case from the comfort of their own office. “To be honest, once we got into the surgery, I often forgot the device was there,” Dr. Kaeding explained. “It just seemed very intuitive and fit seamlessly.”

The potential in surgical education is astounding. Residents could watch hundreds of surgeries from the direct point of view of the greatest surgeons in the world guiding them through with step-by-step instructions. Physicians could pull up x-rays and MRI findings of their patient just by using their voice. “OK Glass. Show me her X-ray.”

But the potential extends outside of the hospital. Already another physician has developed an application for Google glass to help respond to sudden cardiac arrest. Dr. Christian Asad’s application comes in to help innocent bystanders begin CPR on a patient who loses pulses. It can offer CPR instructions, tally the number of compressions, and locate the nearest hospital. With an iPhone app-store-like development ecosystem, the potential is endless.

Self-Driving Cars

Just as Google Glass can disrupt the surgical specialty, the self-driving cars could become a much-needed revolution to the world of emergency response. Google’s massive data analytics powerhouse coupled with its self-driving car technology could dramatically improve 911 responses and save millions of lives each year. Ambulances could roam the streets responding to emergency calls and using data-driven trends to predict areas most likely in need of an ambulance. Paramedics could dedicate their time to stabilizing the patient in the back of their vehicle while the ambulance speeds to the hospital, safely navigating through busy traffic with its activity sensing 360-degree sensors detecting all objects within 200 feet.

If and when these technologies enter the medical mainstream, we will soon wonder how we ever lived without them.

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Larry Istrail is a medical student and entrepreneur that is passionate about the intersection between medicine, technology, and innovation. He is the co-founder of PhotoCalorie, a photographic food journal that allows you, your friends or your physician to literally see what you’ve been eating. He is also the founder of the Ancestral Weight Loss Registry, a crowdsourced weight loss research service with data from over 50 countries around the world. You can follow him on tumblr.