No one knows yet how much Google Glass will change the way we think about computers or even the way we think about walking down the street. Also still unknown is exactly how Google Glass will affect our health and whether or not it will create any new problems, especially for our eyes.
According to videos that Google has posted showing how Glass works, the device displays information in a translucent field in the upper-right area of your vision. Glass responds to your voice commands. It can show you written info, such as time, weather and travel directions. It can also record, send and receive pictures and video.
Experts disagree about the potential for problems. Mashable interviewed Florida optometrist Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford — who goes by “Dr. Nate” — who had several concerns about Glass. On the other hand, Gizmodo interviewed Dr. Jim Sheedy, the director of optometric research at Pacific College, who was much less worried.
Many of us are already dealing with eyestrain caused by spending long hours staring at the screen of a computer or device. Will Google Glass add to our problems?
According to Dr. Nate, Glass wearers may indeed get eyestrain from using the device. You could also have a problem with dry eyes, caused by blinking less frequently while reading the display. Together, eyestrain and dry eyes could cause a whole spectrum of other problems, including headaches, burning eyes and even neck and back pain.
Nearness of display
While in some ways, the impact on the eyes of using Glass may be similar to the impact on the eyes of using any computer device, in one crucial way, using Google Glass will be different. The display that you look at while wearing the glasses will be much closer than the screens you are used to looking at now.
Dr. Nate says that the display is actually too close for the eyes to focus on, so what Google has done is changed the light in such a way that the display appears to be two feet away. Even so, he says, focusing on the display will still cause eyestrain.
Maybe we don’t need to worry
Dr. Sheedy was less concerned about potential problems. He told Gizmodo that he didn’t think Glass would be especially harmful, even for children.
Gizmodo also pointed out that while Glass users will be wearing the devices continuously, possibly for long periods of time, the display itself won’t be on continuously. So users may actually have less eyestrain using Glass than they would when using conventional screens, which people tend to stare at for long periods of time.
Even if you did want to use the display a lot, you would be limited by the device’s short battery life. Another consideration is that users can send messages via voice command, which will save them from the eyestrain they might get while staring at a computer, phone or tablet screen to send a text message.
Google says Glass is safe
A spokesperson for Google told Gizmodo that the company has been working with ophthalmologists and has closely studied both safety and user comfort. It hasn’t found anything to worry about, and it will continue to monitor these issues closely.
Time will tell
As Google Glass becomes more available on the market, and as more people start using it, we will have much more information about how it will affect the eyes in real-world condition. Perhaps the biggest problems will come not from eyestrain and other health issues, but from distraction.
About the Author: Oklahoma City optometrist Dr. Kenneth W. Guthrie O.D. specializes in vision correction and treating diseases of the eye.