Google Glass Is Changing a Quadriplegic's Life

With Glass, a paralyzed woman can do things she thought she never could again.

ByABC News
August 9, 2013, 3:42 PM

Aug. 12, 2013 — -- To many, Google Glass seems like an unnecessary, very expensive, odd-looking smartphone accessory. To Aleksandra Blaszczuk, Google's connected glasses are none of those things.

A 26-year-old quadriplegic, Blaszczuk needs assistance with bathing, eating and countless other activities, but the new gadget has allowed her to do things on her own that she didn't think would be possible again.

Before a car accident a year and a half ago, Blaszczuk used her smartphone just like most 20-somethings. She took photos and immediately shared them; she used a maps app to get around in New York City; she quickly Googled things to keep up with conversation. But when she became paralyzed from the chest down, her life changed.

"Lots of people with disabilities don't have an opportunity to share their stories. I couldn't take pictures before -- I would have to ask someone to do that for me," Blaszczuk told ABC News. "With Glass, there is a whole new sense of self expression – I've been taking pictures and taking video."

She is able to tilt her head back to wake the glasses' small screen and then simply use her voice to control them. "O.K., Glass, take a picture," she can say to snap a photo, and then she can share it to her Google Plus profile – all with just voice commands. Beyond just taking photos and videos, Blaszczuk has been using the glasses, which pair with a phone for Internet connectivity, to make phone calls, get directions and search Google.

"Before I used a Bluetooth headset -- like a 90s Bluetooth headset -- but I'd have to have my assistant put it on. The difference [with Glass] is actually a really big deal because you can always have it on," Blaszczuk, who is currently studying law at Columbia University, said.

Despite being able to use her iPad and iPhone with voice control software and with Siri, she also explained how useful it is to be able to search with her voice and see the results in front of her right eye. "My friends are always looking up things on their cellphones, I can do that now too really quickly," she said. With Glass you can search Google by simply saying "O.K. Glass, what is the weather going to be like tomorrow?"

She is, though, very aware of one of Glass' main drawbacks. "I don't have it on right now because the battery died," she explained. The early Explorer edition of Glass has only about four hours of battery life. "That's one of the main limitations, because I can't plug it in myself."

Still, all of those small tasks have made her feel more independent and more capable without leaning on her caregiver for help. Since getting the glasses about three weeks ago, Blaszczuk went on a camping trip with her friends, the first trip since her accident that she has taken without her assistant.

Google documented the trip in a video to show off the impact the glasses have had. Blaszczuk paid $1,500 for her charcoal-colored-pair glasses, just like the other early Explorers.

"Lots of people with disabilities don't have an opportunity to share their stories."

And "explore" is exactly what she feels like the glasses have enabled her to do.

"The Explorer is with a capital e, but in a real, physical sense it has gotten me to do random things, really explore things," Blaszczuk said. "I went on a tour of Green Point, it was a fun experience. I have literally been doing more exploring."