Google caused a stir when it announced recently that it is developing electronic eyewear that would give wearers an augmented reality (AR) experience. The so-called “Google Glasses”—which are not actually glasses but consist of a sleek lightweight frame that holds a tiny clear screen but no lenses—are still in prototype form. Yet technology writers in the consumer press quickly seized on them as an example of how wearable computers will soon enter into and shape our lives. This emerging mobile technology, which will soon be offered not only by Google but by a number of competitors as well, would allow wearers to do such things as surf the Net, locate nearby friends, view maps and other data, send text messages and take and send photographs or video of what you are viewing. The experience is often described as being “immersive.”

The prospect of being able to view these things on a heads-up display and still see the surrounding environment is exciting because it extends the limits of our perception, and in effect, what the human visual system is capable of. Yet it also raises questions about our ability to multitask. In a world where people are already bumping into things while staring at their smart phone screen, the idea of having to process another layer of visual information is a bit daunting and perhaps even dangerous.

Since we are poised on the cusp of this new technology, it’s a good time to ponder what it will mean for eyecare professionals. Will eyecare practices and optical retailers be selling these new AR systems? Will they be Rxable? What impact will they have on our vision?

It’s too soon to answer these questions, but 20/20 and L&T readers should learn as much as possible about the new AR. It will impact your patients and your practices, whether you are ready or not.

—Andrew Karp