A NORTH-EAST couple are among the first in the world to trial the benefits of futuristic techonolgy for people suffering with Parkinson's disease.
Researchers at Newcastle University have begun to test Google Glass - a computer worn like a pair of glasses - to see what effect it could have could have on people with the incurable neurological illness.
Developed by Google, and currently only available in the USA, the device works like a hands-free smartphone displaying information to the wearer on the lens. The technology is voice-operated and linked to the internet.
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Working with a group of Parkinson’s volunteers aged between 46-70 years, the study found it could help them retain their independence for longer.
Partners Lynn Tearse, 46, and Ken Booth, 56, from County Durham, were some of the first volunteers to try out the gadget.
Mr Booth, who was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991, said: “They’re just fantastic. The potential for someone with Parkinson’s is endless. For me the biggest benefit was confidence.
“Because Glass is connected to the internet you can link it to computers and mobile phones.
"So if you’re alone you just have to look through the Glass and carers, friends or relatives will be able to see exactly where you are and come and get you. Or you just tell it to call someone and it rings them.”
Ms Tearse, who was diagnosed in 2008, said: “People would probably say you can do all these things on a smartphone but actually, with Parkinsons', negotiating a touch screen is really difficult.
“It’s not just the tremor. During a down time when the medication is starting to wear off and you’re waiting for the next lot to kick in it can be like trying to do everything wearing a pair of boxing gloves. Your movements are very slow and your body won’t do what you want it to.”
Led by Dr John Vines, PhD student Roisin McNaney and Dr Ivan Poliakov, the results will be presented at a conference in Canada later this month.
Dr Vines said: “What was really encouraging from this early study was how well our volunteers took to the wearable technology and the fact that they could see the potential in it.”