7 Exciting Ways to Use Smart Eyewear in Healthcare

Smart eyewear offers both patients and providers new ways to protect health, deliver treatment therapies, and record data. With use cases ranging from virtual reality medical consultations to round-the-clock psychotherapy, the best eyewear technology is a game changer. However, that doesn’t mean we’re leaving basic sunglasses behind; even these now have smart technology interwoven into their structure.

Key takeaways:

The eyes aren’t called “windows to the soul” for nothing. Our eyes help us to understand and appreciate the world we live in, to function effectively, and even reflect our state of health. With the invention of smart eyewear, we can now augment the ability of our eyes, deliver therapy for various mental and physical health conditions, and even protect our valuable orbs from damage caused by ultraviolet light.

What is smart eyewear?

Once upon a time, the word “smart” referred to one of two things: a person’s level of intellect and learning, or their dress sense. In the 21st century, “smart” almost always refers to technology, particularly products connected via the internet or using artificial intelligence (AI). Smart eyewear typically means connected glasses or those with in-built nanotechnology that allows them to:

  • Make phone calls
  • Receive notifications
  • Navigate to a location in three dimensions
  • Translate languages on the move
  • Take part in online or virtual reality gaming

7 benefits of smart eyewear

However, it’s in healthcare where we find the really exciting possibilities of this technology. Smart glasses now offer several important benefits for people with various eyesight conditions.

1. Giving sight to the blind

Medical practitioners throughout history have aspired to giving back eyesight to the blind. Finally, it’s now possible, with the help of smart eyewear. Envision, a company headquartered in the Netherlands, uses AI to gather data from images. The information is then presented to the wearer verbally, telling them what they are looking at.

Through the company’s app and smart glasses, patients who are blind or have low vision can read, identify people and objects, and make hands-free video calls to people they trust. They can also read documents, use public transportation unassisted, and recognize their friends and contacts, enabling them to live more independently. Pricing ranges between $1,900 and $3,500, depending on the model and capabilities you choose.

2. Improving hand-eye coordination

Hand-eye coordination is the ability most people possess to perform movements with their hands that are guided by their eyes. Poor hand-eye coordination usually stems from a visual-motor coordination deficit. Individuals with poor coordination have difficulty playing sports, hitting or catching balls, and often suffer from eyestrain.

While smart eyewear can’t repair the deficit, virtual reality devices have been designed that can enhance depth perception, reduce reaction time, and improve hand-eye coordination. The devices can also sharpen the sight in someone with amblyopia, or a “lazy eye.”

3. Boosting cognitive performance

The new Smith Lowdown Focus eyewear improves wearers’ mental abilities. These normal-looking eyeglasses were designed to train athletes and high-powered individuals to achieve better focus and concentration. The sunglasses contain complex brain sensors in the temple sections and work with the Smith Focus App to help heighten awareness and train cognitive performance.

This technology senses and measures brain activity levels, and delivers real-time feedback via a smartphone app. Wearers can analyze their activity, control their focus, analyze improvements, and fine-tune their mental performance by working through the app. Smith sunglasses feature ChromaPop™ lenses compatible with prescriptions, a lightweight, non-slip fit, Bluetooth low energy (BLW) connectivity, and non-invasive sensors, while the app provides comprehensive training sessions.

With regular use, wearers have reported increased focus in learning, better ability to manage anxiety or other emotions under pressure, increased accuracy and decision-making, improved blocking of distractions, and better response control for stressors.

4. Correcting color perception problems

An estimated 300 million people in the world have color vision deficiency. One in every 12 men are color-blind, and one in 200 women. Color blindness occurs because cones in the retina that detect color are absent, they don’t function properly, or they misinterpret one color as another. According to the National Eye Institute, most people are born with color blindness, and the condition may worsen with age. There are several types of color-vision deficiency, including:

  • Deuteranomaly. This is a red-green deficiency.
  • Protanomaly. This is a blue-yellow deficiency.
  • Deuteranopia and protanopia. Both mean complete color blindness.

Smart glasses help filter out the light, enhancing the contrast between colors and enabling the wearer to distinguish between colors like red and green. Common brands of smart glasses include Pilestone, Onke, and EnChroma. The various types work for different impairment forms, and some color correction glasses can be worn over prescription glasses.

5. Mental health therapy

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a method of psychotherapy designed to treat psychological trauma in mental health patients. Bilateral stimulation, such as rapid eye movements or buzzing tappers, works in concert with grounding exercises, visualization, resource building, and thought replacement to reprocess how memories are stored. EMDR treatment reduces the distress associated with a memory and replaces it with positive thoughts and emotions instead. Scientists have now translated the EMDR protocol into a virtual technique that offers patients 24/7 access to treatment using a secure VR headset and app to use at their convenience.

6. Performing clinical functions

Smart eyewear isn’t just for addressing eyesight challenges in patients, either. Physicians increasingly use augmented reality (AR) headsets for diagnosis and treatment purposes. For example, doctors can use smart glasses connected via the Internet of Things (IoT) to AI-driven software during patient consultations. The system captures the images seen through the eyewear, and the AI analyzes them to deliver advanced diagnoses.

Smart glasses have also been incorporated into healthcare settings in other ways, such as documenting a patient visit, recording images and video through a front-facing camera, and retrieving a patient’s electronic health records instantly. The software applications can help speed up the results of diagnostic tests and access and present data onto the lenses. In a recent development, medical device manufacturer Smith and Nephew announced plans to outfit surgeons with smart glasses. These will allow the company's representatives to follow live surgeries from anywhere in the world, providing surgeons with technical support and real-time troubleshooting for its products.

7. UV eye protection

Most people have worn sunglasses at some point, but now smart eyewear has taken this humble accessory to a new level. Dusk sunglasses are the world’s first eye protectors with app-enabled tint-changing capability. They also have built-in audio and connectivity capabilities, an integrated microphone, polarized lenses, and a location finder.

Exciting future possibilities

Smart eyewear offers exciting future possibilities for healthcare. These range from capturing health data about the wearer to delivering mental health therapies such as hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and mentalization-based therapy. Smart eyewear offers multiple ways for clinicians to connect with patients and supports the ongoing shift to remote healthcare consultations.

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