Google (GOOG) has been hard at work trying to get people to use Google Glass, the $1,500 piece of wearable technology that looks like something out of Star Trek. However, as the company struggles to sell it to consumers, it may have found the best usage for it, without even lifting a finger.
The UC Irvine School of Medicine announced today it would be the first in the U.S. to integrate Google Glass into its curriculum, all the way from first- and second-year anatomy courses and clinical skills training to third- and fourth-year hospital rotations. The school noted that by having access to all of the information available to Glass on their faces, it will enable them to have information in a hands-free environment, and make healthcare a more personalized aspect of people's lives.
“I believe digital technology will let us bring a more impactful and relevant clinical learning experience to our students,” said Dr. Ralph V. Clayman, dean of medicine in a statement. “Our use of Google Glass is in keeping with our pioneering efforts to enhance student education with digital technologies – such as our iPad-based iMedEd Initiative, point-of-care ultrasound training and medical simulation. Enabling our students to become adept at a variety of digital technologies fits perfectly into the ongoing evolution of healthcare into a more personalized, participatory, home-based and digitally driven endeavor.”
The school noted the program will start this month, with 10 pairs of Glass for the third and fourth-year students, using them in the operating room and emergency departments. Eventually, UC Irvine wants them to go into classrooms, with an additional 20 to 30 pairs being bought by August. Those will be used in anatomy labs, the medical simulation center, the ultrasound institute, the Clinical Skills Center and the basic science lecture hall.
“Medical education has always been very visual and very demonstrative, and Glass has enormous potential to positively impact the way we can educate physicians in real time,” Wiechmann added in the release. “Indeed, all of medicine is based on ‘seeing,’ not ‘reading,’ the patient.”
Google still makes the vast majority of its revenue from search and display advertising, so Glass isn't going to make Google into Apple (AAPL) in terms of hardware revenue overnight. However, assuming the UC Irvine experiment goes well, then other universities and hospitals around the country may adapt using Glass, provided the benefits are there for both patients and medical personnel as well.
Recent reports have suggested that Glass costs about $80 to make, and perhaps another $50 or so to put it together, leaving Google with a very hefty profit margin of nearly 90%, given the $1,500 price tag.
As both the hardware and software gets better and cheaper, Google can lower the price of Glass, allowing a larger demographic to begin testing it out, and coming up with new use cases for a product that has largely been scorned at by the general public, and a mixed view from the tech community.
That will allow Google to not only sell additional units, but as people become more comfortable using them, it's likely to boost search and advertising revenue as well. All, without lifting a finger, or in this case, in the blink of an eye.