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January 17, 2014

Through the looking Glass

For Dr. Anil Shah, Google Glass brings clarity to the surgeon’s table.

Shah, a facial plastic surgeon who works at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC), in addition to owning a private practice, used Google Glass to perform a surgery in December. Shah is the first practitioner in Chicago to use the eyeglass technology—which enables hands-free computing—during an operation.

Google Glass allows the user, through voice and sensor activation, to interact with a visual computer interface created by looking into a wearable glass pane. It is not yet for sale.

Shah had acquired Google Glass as part of Google’s Glass Explorer Program, through which individuals can apply to test out the new technology.

“When I had heard of Google Glass, I thought that the medical applications could be significant. I wanted to work with the product and see where its strengths and weaknesses were,” he said.

After acquiring the glasses, Shah did some test runs of the product in a mock-up surgical setting before using them in a real surgery. After reviewing a patient with a broken nose and breathing complications, Shah deemed this “the perfect case” for him to test the product during a live surgery.

“I have an image of what the nose looks like, and what I want it to look like. Instead of having to look up and turn my head at the wall, I can keep my eyes on the patient, look up in the right-hand corner, and see this image overlap,” Shah said.

Following the procedure, the patient no longer experienced any of her original nasal afflictions. Though he stressed that it was in no way necessary for him to use Google Glass to complete the surgery, Shah believes that there are many prospective uses for the technology in teaching medical students.

“I think that it is probably going to be a game changer,” he said. “One of the challenges [for medical students] is to see what the surgeon is doing and trying to learn that perspective. So having [Google Glass] changes your perspective, and hopefully it makes the learning curve less steep.”

Google has not confirmed a release date for the eyewear, though new versions could be released later this year.

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