Does Wearable Technology Risk Our Eye Sight?

David posted yesterday about Google’s project glass. Sounds pretty cool, and I’ll probably try it at some point. However, I do have to wonder what optometrists think when they see this? Most of us already face excessive amounts of screen time in our working lives. Will we now face never-ending screen time? And what’s the impact of constantly forcing our eyes to re-adjust their focal distance?

I did some sleuthing and I found very little in terms of outraged optometrists. Perhaps it’s too early. There were a couple of blog posts, and I also found this fox news story that came out back in February. Most made references to Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS, defined in the story:

“CVS is the stress and fatigue we experience on our eyes when we use a digital device for a long period of time. Pixilated images are hard for our eyes to focus on, so when these images are so close to our eyes, our eyes have to turn in towards each other – what is known as convergence – which can cause that same type of eye fatigue.”

The symptoms included “eye irritation, an inability to keep objects in focus, and sometimes – seeing double.” That’s a relief! I was sure parenting was the root cause.

I think how we interface our bodies with technology is incredibly interesting. The use of hearing implants for the deaf has been a real miracle in the last 10 or so years (see this – it’s touching). But our eyes are sacred, in my view; we are so dependent on them. When technology is wearable and supplements our natural senses, I think we need to consider the impact. What are we asking our eyes to do beyond what they were naturally intended to do?

I suppose it’s possible that humans will want to bypass their eyes entirely at some point in the future. Directly connecting our brains with digital inputs? That’s a scary proposition for those of us afraid of laser vision correction. I know I won’t be lining up!

[hmm. There must be a goofy Star Trek NG reference to be had here…] Given my hair stylist, let’s just say that this is the look I’ll be trying to avoid:


  1. Should we be discussing this without talking about the work of Steve Mann and his “wearable computing” that he has been intensively involved with for some 20 years?

    It all sounds crazy to me, frankly. It may be of interest to scientists – both computer engineers and psychologists – but it holds no promise to make my life better, or the life of anyone I know. (Maybe I should get out more…)

  2. John: No we should not. I recall seeing a piece on MIT’s media lab a few years back, which had him front and centre.

    In hindsight, I’m sure that’s where I pulled the word ‘wearable’ from for the post title.

    Good old Canadian innovation. :)

  3. Resistance is futile. But seriously, I believe wearable computing / personal heads up display technology will become something useful and something that is commonly used. How common it will be, and the uses it will attract are unclear.

    While the concept has been around in theory for a long time (I prefer the terminator eye to the borg eye myself) it will take time before we figure it out.

    A lot of tech has withered and died for lack of a good use or failure to convince users it is useful, but many tings we use today were treated with skepticism. Like computers in the home, tablet computers, and blogs.