Google Glass May Hinder Vision

Smart eyewear Google Glass may interfere with peripheral vision, study says

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Labeled as smart eyewear, Google Glass lets users search photos, take calls, send messages and watch videos. But the high-tech glasses may also hinder users' vision.

A new study compared the smart technology eyewear Google Glass to regular glasses to determine their effects on vision.

The researchers found that those who used Google Glass frames had significant blind spots in the upper right corner of their field of vision.

According to Christopher Quinn, OD, FAAO, optometrist at Omni Eye Services, losing part of the visual field can significantly degrade visual functions, from increasing risk of falling to negatively affecting driving skills.

"Fortunately, the field loss demonstrated with the use of Google Glass can be compensated for by the overlapping visual field from the opposite eye," said Dr. Quinn. "Testing the binocular [use of both eyes] visual field with Google Glass would give a better approximation of the potential impact of the device on real-world visual fields."

This study on Google Glass was conducted by lead author Tsontcho Ianchulev, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues.

Interest in smart eyewear like Google Glass has been increasing among consumers. But how this technology affects wearers' vision is somewhat unknown, the study authors noted.

Peripheral vision refers to what viewers can see on either side of them when looking straight ahead. Peripheral vision plays an important role in daily activities like safely driving and playing sports, the study authors noted.

Standard glasses have been known to reduce the peripheral visual field and produce blind spots, the study authors wrote. And Google Glass is larger than some standard eyewear frames, they added.

Dr. Ianchulev and colleagues recruited three healthy people with normal vision and had them use Google Glass.

The participants followed the manufacturer’s directions and wore Google Glass for one hour. The electronic display of the Google Glass frames was not turned on during the study — the authors felt it could have been a distraction.

The study authors conducted perimetric visual testing by comparing Google Glass frames to normal frames of similar color and width. Perimetric visual testing measures a person's eyesight, including peripheral vision.

To assess vision blockage, the authors looked at 132 images to assess Google Glass’s display unit position in relation to the wearer's pupil. The images were of people facing forward while wearing Google Glass. The Google Glass display unit is also called a prism and is located over the right eye of the wearer.

The study authors graded each participant's vision field when looking up, down and to each side.

The study authors reported that, in 59 percent of the photos they reviewed, the position of the prism was likely to interfere with the wearer's peripheral vision.

Also, the study authors found that Google Glass caused significant blind spots in the all three study participants' right visual fields. Since the display unit was turned off, the visual blockage was likely caused by the physical design of the frames, the authors said.

The researchers indicated that a small sample size limited their study. They noted that the three people in the study may not be representative of all users.

“Additional studies are needed to understand the effects of these devices on visual function, particularly as their use becomes increasingly common,” the study authors wrote.

The study was published Nov. 4 in JAMA.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 4, 2014
Last Updated:
November 12, 2014