Technology experts in Scotland are developing so-called smart glasses which could be utilised in order to assist doctors in the performing of surgery.
The technology is redolent of Google Glass; a consumer electronics products that was shelved after Google failed to achieve sufficient market penetration.
However, it is hoped that a similar development could be used in the health service in Scotland, and consultations are already underway to successfully implement this technology.
NHS Highland has revealed it is working with hi-tech companies to create the glasses – and believe it could attract worldwide interest and “significant” revenues for the health board.
If completed it would mean that Scotland would be the first country in Europe to develop and ultimately implement the smart glasses technology for medical usage.
Smart glasses are effectively a wearable computer, connecting to the Internet and providing feedback to the surgeon in real-time.
They also contain a variety of self-contained mobile applications, while having the functionality to project images onto the lens of the glasses while allowing the user to see as normal.
Other features which are common in mobile technology are also included, such as a high-resolution camera and voice recognition software which has the ability to turn speech into text.
NHS Highland has set up a board of medics to consider the potential uses for the glasses, and is keen to hear from interested colleagues, academics and businesses.
There may be concern that this could prove to be something of an expensive red herring, particularly after the failure of Google Glass to capture the imagination of consumers.
Similarly, the Apple Watch smartwatch which was released by Apple last year, has not perhaps being as enthusiastically received as the consumer electronics giant would have hoped.
The experience of these two technology releases suggests that niche devices often fail to deliver the vision of the manufacturer.
Nonetheless, Alan Whiteside, innovation consultant with NHS Highland’s research, development and innovation department, believes that the glasses will be valuable to both surgeons and those working in casualty departments.
Whiteside took time to outline where he believed the smart glasses could be implemented.
“It’s early days yet but several clinicians have already indicated that they are very interested in the glasses and have suggested some possible applications. The plan is to turn these ideas into reality and take it from there. If things go as we hope, the smart glasses could help to put NHS Highland at the forefront internationally of a technology with vast potential.”
NHS Highland is working on the development of the glasses with Summit Wearable Solutions, an Inverness-based company.
“If this is commercially successful we would have intellectual property rights and it’s possible that this project could ultimately yield a significant income for us. This is the first place in Europe seriously developing digital eyewear for healthcare. I have no doubt that it could put help to NHS Highland on the map as a centre of technological innovation,” Whiteside added.