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A Google Glass App That Would Be Hard for Even the Haters to Hate

A startup called Wearable Intelligence is dreaming up uses for Google Glass that may actually help save lives.

Many people have already made up their minds that they’re uncomfortable with people wearing Google Glass.

But here’s a use that’s hard to argue with: An emergency room doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard teaching hospital in Boston, Mass., was tending to a patient suffering from massive brain bleeding. Because the doctor was wearing Google Glass, he was able to see that the patient had severe allergic reactions to blood pressure medications. Normally that might have required running to a computer or grabbing a tablet, accessing the patient records and then scrubbing up again.

“Google Glass enabled me to view this patient’s allergy information and current medication regimen without having to excuse myself to log in to a computer, or even lose eye contact,” said Dr. Steve Horng.

Because he was able to start treatment immediately with that knowledge, Horng believes that Google Glass helped save the patient from the chance of permanent disability or death.

Horng is part of a pilot program at Beth Israel involving about five doctors using Google Glass. This isn’t the normal Glass you can buy if you’re selected for Google’s “Explorers” program and pay $1,500. It’s a version of the same hardware that has been modified by a company called Wearable Intelligence.

Wearable Intelligence strips and replaces the Google Glass software with a reformatted version of Android, so it can be locked down for specific uses and specific contexts. Doctors don’t have the option to tweet photos of patients, check their Facebook, or even take the device off the hospital Wi-Fi network. Google’s on-board speech recognition technology is replaced with a more specialized medical dictionary from Nuance.

Wearable Intelligence was founded by repeat entrepreneurs and former Google employees, and seed-funded by venture capitalists in the Glass Collective as well as First Round Capital.

It’s one of a group of companies participating in Google’s new Glass at Work program to bring the wearable computer to the enterprise. Others include Augmedix and APX Labs, as the New York Times reported today, and in addition to hospitals, Google is working on modifying Glass for broadcasters, NBA athletes and police officers.

Wearable Intelligence’s largest deployment is actually not in a hospital, but out on the oil fields of Schlumberger, the multinational energy company, where employees are using 30 of the units to help them follow the complex checklists that allow them to do their jobs safely.

“With this ambient information stream, we start to blur the line between knowledge in your head and the institutional knowledge of the entire organization,” said Wearable Intelligence CEO Yan-David Erlich.

Erlich thinks that all different sorts of enterprises — energy, medical, manufacturing, construction — face similar challenges for which Glass can be helpful, like implementing workplace procedures, offering remote assistance, recording best practices and serving context-aware alerts. And he’d also like to expand beyond Glass to other wearables, like Thalmic Labs’ Myo and the Meta augmented reality glasses.

Here are a couple of videos (the first includes actors playing the patients) that show how this works. Even if you hate-hate-hate Google Glass as used by regular people in public, you may be able to see the appeal here:

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