Press Release

Pace University Professor Receives National Science Foundation Grant to Develop Touchless Smart Glasses

March 3, 2023

Grant to Seidenberg School of CSIS professor allows technology to be created that helps emergency care personnel make better decisions faster.

Pace University Seidenberg School of CSIS Professor Zhan Zhang, PhD, recently received a $499,966 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop touchless smart glasses that will allow emergency care professionals to collect data, communicate with other specialists, and pull up medical protocol checklists with a gesture of the head or through voice controls. They’ll no longer need to take their hands—or their eyes—off the patient or risk transferring germs to and from a computer keyboard.

Humans have limited capacity for processing information and recognizing critical events, which can lead to errors when this capacity is exceeded. In safety-critical areas such as medicine, such errors can lead to serious consequences, especially in the many cases where these errors might be preventable. A common cause of medical errors is when health workers lack situational awareness, knowing what is going on within an environment and predicting what is likely to happen next, and make mistakes based on this lack of awareness. The overarching goal of this research is to determine how to support fast-response medical teams’ awareness of context-specific information and activities while accounting for their limited capacity in processing information and ability to interact with handheld computing devices while doing their job.

“If we create technology that helps emergency care personnel make better decisions faster, we can literally save lives.” said Professor Zhan Zhang, PhD

The project is structured around three main aims. The first is to deeply understand the cognitive needs of care providers during time-critical medical events; this will be accomplished by analyzing simulation videos, eye-tracking data, and artifacts, along with observational field studies and interviews with EMS workers. The second is to design and develop hands-free cognitive aids for fast-response medical teams, through a series of participatory design workshops and usability evaluation activities grounded in socio-technical models of health information technology implementation. The third is to conduct summative assessment of a functional prototype through deploying it in training simulations, measuring task performance and patient outcomes along with effects on workers’ situational awareness and cognitive load.

Together, the research will produce scientific knowledge and design implications related to situational awareness, hands-free technologies, and human computer interaction. The project will also promote interdisciplinary education and research through involving a diverse group of high school, undergraduate, and graduate students, while providing the basis for developing a rich outreach program to medical workers and health technology industry partners.

“Pace University has always been at the forefront of creating opportunity,” said Pace University President Marvin Krislov. “Investing in faculty research that contributes to knowledge creation, enables distinctive academic offerings, and provides opportunities for research collaboration with our students.​ We are grateful for all the hard-work and dedication of Professor Zhan Zhang. The research will provide cutting-edge technology for emergency care personnel to help them better take care of patients, it’s remarkable.”

“The Seidenberg school is an ideal incubator for Professor Zhang’s world-class work in wearable technologies for healthcare,” said Jonathan Hill, Dean of the Seidenberg School of Computer Science, and Information Systems at Pace University.

“The creative problem-solving and entrepreneurial environment that Seidenberg provides is designed to empower brilliant minds like Professor Zhang’s, and to match them with bright, hard-working students who are driven to support that type of research. We are very proud of Zhan, and, like many people, look forward to his ongoing career success.”

Professor Zhang’s work has earned him a few incredible distinctions: In Fall 2021, he made Pace history by earning grants from both the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). In February 2023, he made history at Pace again, after being awarded nearly $500,000 through the NSF's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program, the most prestigious award for junior faculty across the US from a Federal agency.

About Pace University

Since 1906, Pace University has educated thinking professionals by providing high quality education for the professions on a firm base of liberal learning amid the advantages of the New York metropolitan area. A private university, Pace has campuses in New York City and Westchester County, New York, enrolling nearly 13,000 students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in its Dyson College of Arts and Sciences, Lubin School of Business, College of Health Professions, School of Education, the Elisabeth Haub School of Law, and Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.

About the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems at Pace University

At Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems, students experience a best-of-breed technology education at one of the first comprehensive schools of computing in the nation. Strategically located in the heart of NYC’s tech scene, the Seidenberg School places students on the doorstep of New York’s most promising companies, whether they are established tech giants or exciting new start-ups. The school offers a range of online and in-person masters programs, including an online Master of Science in Computer Science degree. Through partnerships with leading corporations, banks, federal agencies, and global entities, the school’s curricula and programs are designed to give students the latest in computer science theory and invaluable hands-on practice to ground it. The faculty includes numerous cybersecurity experts who operate labs and centers providing students with practical experience and connections that lead to impressive internships and jobs.

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