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 I worked with colleagues in Open Lab to explore how Google’s Glass technology can be used as a platform for to help people with Parkinson’s manage their condition.
The Glass 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. When we conducted this research, it seemed likely that the Glass would become a consumer product and thus might be on the market in the following years. In this research we involved people with Parkinson’s as ‘Glass Explorers’, holding focus groups, giving volunteers a Glass to take home for short periods of time and use in their everyday life, and capturing their experiences with this then very new technology. Our early findings highlighted generally positive responses to the device, with many participants explaining how they felt it may instil confidence and safety when wearing it out and about. At the same time, participants 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.
Collaborators: Roisin McNaney, Amey Holden, Daniel Roggen, Madeline Balaam, Ivan Poliakov, Pengfei Zhan, Patrick Olivier, Peter Wright, Parkinson’s UK.
My role: Designing activity prompts; developing co-design materials; qualitative analysis.
Publications: Exploring the Acceptability of Google Glass as an Everyday Assistive Device for People with Parkinson’s (ACM CHI 2014).
Funding: Technology Strategy Board ALIP 3/4 ‘SALT’ project.
Timescale: August 2013 – December 2014.