Prosopagnosia and Google Glass

GLASSNo doubt you’ve heard of Google Glass (GG) by now.  Dom Maino and Geoff Goodfellow did a nice preview of it for the AOA nearly two years ago.  The device gained some notoriety last year when a California woman received a summons for driving with GG in place.  The case was thrown out two days ago when the police officer was unable to defend that GG either obstructed peripheral vision or was more of a distraction than a hands-free phone.


how google-glass-works

Google Glass could just as easily have been called Google Prism, as it is the prism that enables the heads up visual display to be projected from the CPU into visual space.  Here are a couple of good graphics to give you more of a feel for it.


GoogleGlass Look

Although there are some potential issues regarding how Google Prism might affect our visual function while wearing it, our optometric colleagues Drs. Jim Sheedy and Eli Pelli don’t have any significant concerns.  Seems to me the jury may not be out yet.  The Review of Optometry last year wondered about the extent to which O.D.s would ultimately be involved in Rxing.

Who might be using GG?  In some respects it’s frightening to think about, witness this clip from a family of tards (their phrase, not mine).  Dude.  Seriously.

But GG has the potential to be much more than a novelty, and certainly something more than what you could wear on your wrist.  One of the more intriguing apps now available for GG is Facial Recognition.  This has been controversial as related to privacy issues, though it certainly has its merits in social situations.

Google-Glass Prosopagnosia


I am specifically thinking of the large population of children that we have in our practice who are on the autistic spectrum, a subset of whom have developmental prosopagnosia or problems with face recognition.  Our resident, Dr. Nicole Kress, currently works with a young man – Alexander – who has taken a shine to her.  Alexander is only six years old but has a vocabulary that would blow you away.  When I talk to him about his visual difficulties he tells me exactly what he feels “exacerbates” his condition.  No exaggeration – in some ways he is a Rhodes Scholar trapped in a six-year old body, challenging enough for a boy his age in social circumstances.  When I asked him why he likes working with “Dr. Nicole”, he answers: “Because she thinks outside of the box”.

Moustache-figureYet Alexander often does not recognize me in the hallway when I pass by, or when I walk into the vision therapy room to visit when he is working with Dr. Nicole.  He acknowledges who I am when he sees me for progress evaluations in the course of spending time with him and mom.  Perhaps – and I say only perhaps – he has learned to identify me in the context of the office because I am the only one with a moustache.  We also have an adult therapy patient, Sharon in our practice currently who has acquired prosopagnosia secondary to ABI.  I wouldn’t have known of her condition had she not volunteered it.


There is no known therapy for developmental or acquired prosopagnosis per se.  Our friend, Oliver Sacks, considers himself to have a touch of prosopagnosia, and addresses the condition with his usual eloquence.

Is there a common thread among individuals with shyness, social awkwardness, difficulty with faces, and those on the autistic spectrum?  Regardless of labels, Google Prism and Glass technology holds intriguing possibilities for them and it seems as if we are just scratching the surface.

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