It may still look funny, but Google Glass is being hailed as a tool that “could potentially save lives, especially in isolated or far-flung locations,” by the American Chemical Society (h/t Thomas Carannante at Science World Report).

google glass

“With our app for Google Glass and our remote computing and data analysis power, we can deliver a one-two punch — provide quantified biomedical test results for individual patients, plus analyze all those data to determine whether an outbreak is imminent,” says Aydogan Ozcan, Ph.D.

Google Glass app tested with HIV assays

The app uses Google Glass to take pictures of an assay, and then sends those pictures to a central database to be processed further. This saves time because the assay itself doesn’t have to be sent to a laboratory (which may not even be an option in some cases). In the pilot case, HIV and prostate-specific antigens were tested, and correct results were relayed to patients within eight seconds.

Technicians could even line up a row of assay strips and get correct diagnoses for each of them.

Google Glass isn’t really doing the heavy lifting for this app – you can take a picture of something and send it to someone perfectly well with a smartphone – but when the purpose is to diagnose a large group of people as quickly as possible (while trying to quarantine sick people and prevent a major outbreak, for example) being able to get quick answers while keeping your hands free will be a boon to doctors working in the field.

Other groups have developed similar tools, but Ozcan’s app is the first one that doesn’t need any hardware aside from Google Glass (and the sophisticated lab back home, of course) and is completely hands-free, though it does have to connect to the internet through a smartphone if no other connection is available.

Google Glass could disrupt multiple professions

It’s still an open debate whether Google Glass will be the wearable tech that really takes off with consumers, but the unique input is a major advantage for some professions. One of the more interesting applications from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s early trials was a music professor using Google Glass to record her students conducting from the first person point of view, allowing for even more detailed feedback. For any job where the hands are occupied, but the quick exchange of information is important, Google Glass apps have the potential to disrupt old habits.