Tactile Pressure Sensors Can Enhance Google Glass

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October 18, 2013

The high-tech world is waiting with bated breath to see whether Google Glass breaks the mold as a truly life-changing innovation, or shatters expectations as little more than a novelty.

Capable of live sharing, taking pictures of, and translating the wearer's field of vision, the wearable, head-mounted computer represents a foray into futuristic, personalized technology. The use of advanced tactile pressure sensing technology, however, could assist in further customizing the Google Glass experience for the next level of personalization.

Google Glass puts a world of relevant, user-centric data literally right in front of your eyes. Building on that concept, a tactile pressure sensor-equipped version could tap into the quantified self and health-tracking trends by allowing for real-time biometric monitoring. The incorporation of tactile pressure sensors on the device over the superficial temporal artery, for instance, has the potential to capture such physiological information as arterial pulse and blood pressure measurement.

Leveraging tactile sensors' ability to collect pulse-waveform data, Google Glass could potentially benefit from the general principles applied to development of the iWotch and other monitoring devices. Furthermore, the conformable nature of capacitive tactile sensors lend themselves to such an application because they can conform to the curves of an individual's face in order to ensure accurate and consistent data.

A less flashy but equally as desirable use of advanced tactile sensing technology could be in simply customizing the fit of Google Glass frames. After all, if the technology finds practical application in industry or becomes as essential to users as Google hopes, it's imperative that the devices are comfortable enough for extended wear.

Researchers have recently been exploring the science of comfort to enhance the design of products for user comfort and extended wear. Designers of sleep apnea masks, sunglasses, and protective headsets, for example, are exploring the use of tactile pressure sensing technology on head forms to capture quantifiable pressure data that, in turn, can be used to establish baseline measurements of comfort. So, if Google hasn't already turned to tactile pressure sensing technology to optimize comfort of the frames, it should.

Of course, this method isn't perfect. The idea is to identify baseline measurements of comfort, and, as we all know, everyone's face is shaped differently. Tactile sensors could address those that deviate from the norm by enabling custom fitting of Google Glass to individual users' faces. A shim-like device embedded with tactile pressure sensors and LED lights could be temporarily inserted between the frames and the user's face. This device could indicate where the individual's pressure points are located in order to customize the frame for optimal comfort of the wearer. The result would be an unparalleled experience in personalization with a device that was both physically and technologically tailored to the individual user.

— Jae Son, PhD., is the founder and CEO of Pressure Profile Systems and Medical Tactile.

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