April 2014
Volume 0, Issue 0

Google Glass Invades the Dental Laboratory

Hands-free capabilities and shared perspectives speed up workflow

By Kate Hughes

Leading-edge technology has always been an area of interest for Ben Briscoe, Laboratory Manager at Southern Craft Dental Laboratory in Gainesville, GA. When web-giant Google began promoting its in-development wearable computer, Google Glass, Briscoe was immediately intrigued. After some research, Briscoe felt compelled to apply for the Google Glass Explorer Program as a beta-tester of the device. Worn on the face like a pair of glasses and designed as a true mini-computer, Google Glass not only has the ability to pick up sensory information from your surroundings, but can also display images on a tiny screen within the wearer’s line of sight. “When I signed up, there was no guarantee I would be selected to test the technology. I had to make a case why I would be a good fit as an Explorer for their program,” says Briscoe.

When filling out the application, Briscoe made it clear that he wasn’t looking to use Google Glass on a personal basis, but as a tool within his business. “I really wanted to take a product that was specifically geared toward consumers and discover the breadth of its potential in the dental laboratory,” he says. Briscoe’s approach worked, and two months later he received word that he had been approved for the program.

A Technological Advantage

When Briscoe received his Google Glass device, he was eager to push the limits of its capabilities. Right out of the box, Google Glass offered two features that made it worth its weight in gold—it is entirely hands-free and voice-activated. Briscoe discovered these features make the device invaluable to his everyday workflow, allowing him to keep in touch with his clients while he’s at the bench without ever stopping his work. “With Google Glass, I’m able to access my email and text messages without ever having to pick up my phone or sit down at my computer. I only have to direct the device to read the messages aloud and I can stay in the know while working at the bench.” The value of this feature is compounded by Google Glass’s ability to take pictures and record video from the users’ point of view. “This makes communication with my clients so much easier. I am able to show them exactly what I’m seeing when we’re trying to problem-solve. It can be extremely difficult to convey what I’m seeing through an email or through photos that are taken after I put the model or restoration down on the bench,” says Briscoe.

When Briscoe applied to the Explorer Program, communication with clients was his foremost consideration. Since incorporating the technology into his day-to-day workflow, his clients have taken notice. “I recently sent a short, 10-second video I shot while working on a restoration to one of my clients when we were discussing a case. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, but my client acknowledged how much the video helped him understand and visualize what we were talking about.” That ability to show, rather than tell, helps set Southern Craft Dental Laboratory apart from its competition. “In any company, communication is paramount. Google Glass is just one more way that our laboratory can differentiate itself and make our technicians more available for our clients.”

Even when not communicating with clients, Briscoe finds himself using Google Glass to complete tasks that would have otherwise forced him leave his work at the bench to use a computer. “For example, the other day I was working on a posterior crown for a molar and wanted to see a photograph that demonstrated ideal molar anatomy.” Briscoe used this opportunity to test the device further. “I asked Google Glass to pull up a picture of tooth No. 14, and it appeared right on the little screen for my reference. I was able to work without stopping and see the image right in front of me. Using Google Glass in these instances may only save a few minutes of time, but that time adds up in a laboratory environment,” he says.

Unexpected Perks

Beyond the overt technological advantages the device offers in a laboratory setting, Google Glass has had other, more unexpected impacts on the day-to-day operations of Southern Craft Dental Laboratory. One small feature that turned out to be extremely useful is the ability to set a hands-free timer. “If I have to remember to pull a restoration out of the furnace in 10 minutes, I can vocally direct Google Glass to set a timer, which then is on my person and will definitely be heard even if I have to walk away to take care of something else.”

Another unexpected perk Briscoe discovered using Google Glass is the device’s ability to play music. “In my experience, every dental laboratory technician listens to music. With Google Glass, I can access an entire library of music with only my voice, which is so convenient and something I definitely got used to far too quickly!” he laughs.

The Long Term

Even though Briscoe has only had Google Glass in his laboratory for a couple of months, he can definitely see using the device in the long term. “Right now, I’m using it every day, and as more people test the technology and improve upon its capabilities, I can only see it becoming more useful,” he explains. In the immediate future, Briscoe would like to incorporate more Google Glass devices into his own laboratory, as right now he is the only one with access to the technology. “As soon as the product is released to the market at large, we’ll definitely be making an investment in bringing more units into the laboratory.”

A Note to Readers:

Shortly before this article was published, Google made Google Glass available for the public at large, allowing people to join the Explorer Program at will and buy the device directly from the company for only one day (April 15, 2014).1 The experiment proved successful, and the Google Glass “Explorer Edition” is now available for public consumption. However, as of the publishing of this article, all models were out of stock.

References

1. Google Glass. Become a Glass Explorer on Tues April 15. Updated April 10, 2014. Accessed April 24, 2014. https://plus.google.com/+GoogleGlass/posts/HaUCDHtRvcn.

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