Google Glass’ real promise is among the elderly

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Google Glass has a promising future — although not in the markets that Google thinks it’s targeting: urban early-tech adopters — they are a fickle bunch at best.

Where Google Glass will make its mark and find a large and loyal customer base is in helping families and communities deal with the ravages of old age.

We have a very large population of Baby Boomers. This is Generation A — Aging on a massive scale, a population that’s on a collision course with all the ills and predicaments that an older life brings.

Generation A is doing pretty well so far, but it can’t live forever, even though it secretly thinks otherwise.

The realities of old age are well documented. Such as: brittle bones, difficulties in walking, small falls that can break hips, and many other injuries that were trivial when younger now become deadly. Prolonged physical inactivity due to injuries are a quick slide towards mortality. [Acturial tables are the original "Big Data" app.]

Older age brings other challenges such as muddled thoughts and for some, a slow slide into dementia because of Alzheimer’s, or because of the effects of powerful medications.

With special Google Glass based applications, however, we could soften the problems that Generation A is facing. And it can be done at a very low cost — probably for about the same amount of money as a monthly cell phone bill, which makes it affordable to nearly every family.

Here are some examples of Gen A Google Glass applications:

  • Google Glass sensors can track a person’s gait, and identify mobility problems that signal a potential fall and broken bones in the near future. Early warning signs can trigger preventative treatments and healthcare providers would be motivated to try stop a fall before it happens.
  • Reminders for taking medication and preventing double dosing — a big health problem. Plus reminders of family birthdays.
  • People beginning to suffer from dementia would find Google Glass based apps tremendously useful. For example, the device could recognize family members and offer simple messages such as, “This is your son, his name is John. Say, “Hello John, how are my beautiful grandchildren?”
  • When John asks his aged mother, “Do you remember the trip we took last year to Las Vegas?” Google Glass can run a quick replay video of the highlights. Not only would John’s mother recall the trip but she could use John’s wireless printer to print out her favorite photos for him, right there and then.
  • Families are often separated from their older members because of jobs thousands of miles away. They could check-in with their parents very easily. With Google Glass-type devices, they could patch into what they are doing, even what they are seeing (there would be a “courtesy” filter to screen out any embarrassing scenes).
  • And if there were a problem, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,” aid would be on the way in seconds.
  • Finding old episodes of “The Rockford Files.”

The possibilities for Google Glass are huge in this older market. Why do companies chase the 19 to 25 year old demographic? Those kids have little money and the entire generation has lousy job prospects.

The Baby Boomers of Generation A are the largest and wealthiest demographic of them all. They will love Google Glass.

Google’s rush to Google Glass makes perfect sense, if you consider that founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are 40, and 39 years old, respectively.

With every day they have more and more in common with 60 year-olds than with 20 year-olds. Google Glass is an exercise in future-comforting their old age.

[And so is the hiring of Ray Kurzweil, it's to ensure that Google's founders get a front seat on the bus ride to the Singularity, and its promise of immortality. (If you are in the back seats you might not get there in time. (It's a different type of digital divide.))]


This article by Tom Foremski originally appeared on Silicon Valley Watcher, a Burn Media publishing partner.

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  • Alexis Roos

    Great insight .. I am involved in telecare and agree with your suggestions of applications for elderly ..

  • http://www.onourbikes.com/ Jon Stow

    Goodness me! As a tech-savvy Baby Boomer, should I feel excited or depressed? I don’t know whether I need to have a back-up memory from Google Glass, but a path to immortality might be through backing up our entire brains for when our biological hard drives fail. Installation in our new android selves would follow, no doubt.

  • dratman

    I’ve been wishing for a computer connection directly into my brain for just that purpose — but I guess Google Glass will have to do for now. However, creating the software to do all this prompting and reminding is not trivial. I would guess it will be at least ten years from now before Glass, or any other device aimed that vast market, will be seamlessly helpful to those of us with rapidly weakening brain cells. In the mean time, we oldsters who know how to will just have to program our own personal system of reminding ourselves exactly who and where we are.

    Sorry, what was I saying?

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