Five reasons Google Glass could make the world better – is social care going to be revolutionised?

Here are five ways Google Glass (and the inevitable other brands’ wearable devices) may change our understanding of how to protect vulnerable people, look after youngsters and improve life for older people.

Google Glass, if you don’t know, is a wearable computer with a head-mounted display – it takes voice commands and uses the internet to give you information. In front of your eyes you can see directions, data and all sorts.


I got 99 problems but a Glass ain’t one

Before I start – I know that there are issues, like the fact that there is no indication that the camera is recording, and lots of privacy problems and ethical considerations we’ve not discovered and resolved yet.

There are far brighter people than me who can examine the implications and dangers.

Plus, if everybody focused on the negatives only then we’d never use the darned things.

I’m excited by the possibilities – I predict the positive effects of Google Glass will drastically reduce the burden on social care budgets if we play our cards right.

Five possibilities

1. No hands and voice control = inclusivity

No fiddly keyboards demanding a user to be able to press control-alt-demand or work a smartphone. Apparently, qwerty keyboards were designed to slow typists down, typewriters can’t cope with speed. People can use voice control to access the internet with Google Glass regardless of arthritis, Carpal tunnel syndrome, learning disabilities, dylexia and a whole host of other things that make keyboards or writing awkward.

Good access to information and other people is empowering and often people that use social services feel better if they have control and understanding of their situation. The internet can help that to happen – Google Glass can make that easy for everyone.

2. Recording experiences

If the service you receive is not up to standard, filming it on Google Glass gives you documented evidence of that experience. Would, say, sloppy or neglectful healthcare provision happen as often if the employees knew that patients were recording the service they provide? Wouldn’t widespread use of social media to communicate satisfaction or unhappiness with social care provided give us great data about the employees making a real difference to people’s lives? And maybe highlight the ones who are not in the right career? Scrutiny of services by the people who receive care will be easier.

3. Supporting people with learning disabilities

How much would it cost to send a person to learn to cook for him or herself? With travel and training costs – I guess at least £50 an hour. What if that person was at home, with their own cooker and equipment and getting step by step instructions before their eyes from YouTube? What if the instructions remind them to turn off the gas when the food is cooked? Google Glass can do that.

4. Community and removing isolation

“An increased emphasis on community, on prevention, and personalisation will transform social care to improve quality, reduce demand and generate efficiencies.” From the Guardian.

No community means isolation and that leads to bigger problems – if people can’t connect with people and services around them they are more likely to become depressed or not get help when it’s needed. Asking for help is empowering – public services need to make sure people get help as early as possible before a problem escalates.

Access to social media (that is, access to other people) will become so much more commonplace. Reducing the computer hardware removes the fear. It’d be much easier to say ‘how do I set up a Twitter account and get instructions’ than it is to log into a computer or use a smartphone, open a browser and type the information into the right place to find the information.

It’s better to say, ‘talk to David Smith on Skype’ while you’re making a cuppa in the kitchen, than it is to do it on laptop on a desk in an office. Social media need not replace face-to-face company – it can link us to new people and keep us in touch with those we know.

5. Who’s around me to help me, to entertain me to play with?

Geo-location means I can find things near me.

“Find someone near me who, can help me with a job application/is a doctor/runs a cribbage league.”

“Remind me when I’m at the local flower shop next to ask the woman who works there if she’ll give me a lift to the flower show”.

“Sign me up to a local supper club”.

“Search which nearby coffee shop has good faciilties for people with disabilities”

It’s fun but it so much more

When I first heard about Google Glass I thought – ‘cool, I want it!’ I love Scoble’s descriptions of taking nice photos while he carries his shopping and asking for directions when I’m lost. But it’s not just fun – the wonderful Mark Scheafer made that clear when he was asked about Google Glass recently at the Oi conference in Cardiff. This thing is going to change our lives.

There must be so much that the development of wearable computers can do for people. What about people with dementia, kids in care, people with sensory impairments? I expect there are people working in social care with amazing plans that beat these sketchy thoughts – I’m so excited to hear about them.

Off topic: this post is inspired by Mark Schaefer who is an awesome force in social media and how it can be used and also Pippa Davies who made me realise I’m a stable, self-monitoring fox, Chris Bolton who did a fab blogging workshop today and encouraged me to get off my butt and post on here more. Thanks to them for the encouragement.

Cartoon from Private Eye shared by @BenBlack

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