More to Google Glass than meets the eye

2014-04-09 00:00

THE thing about new technologies is that we can’t really be sure how people will use them until they actually, well, get to use them. Take the iPad for instance. When Steve Jobs unveiled it in 2010, it was sold as a really great way of browsing the kind of content we’d ordinarily view on a laptop or desktop. Public reaction — excluding what was then a much smaller contingent of iFans — was generally something along the lines of “oh look, a giant, pointless iPhone”. It was only once the iPad started landing in the hands of consumers that we realised how much potential it actually had.

Doctors realised they could get patient data onto and from their central records on the fly and archaeologists, meanwhile, could take the iPad into awkward spaces where they wouldn’t have been able to take a laptop, for instance. More recently, pilots have been able to ditch their bulky flight manuals for something much lighter.

Until very recently, we were in the same place with Google Glass. All we really knew when Glass first started emerging was that you could skydive with it and that you could use it for shooting photos and videos.

As Google’s expanded its Explorer programme and put the wearable device into an increasing number of hands, we’ve seen people using Glass in a variety of unexpected ways.

• Telling stories that don’t usually get told

One of the best things about Glass is that it, literally, allows you to tell your story from your own point of view. The unfortunate thing is that we’re not exactly short of stories from the kind of people who first got their hands on the device: white, wealthy and (if this Tumblr is to be believed) male.

That’s what makes Google Glass Diaries, a project by film-maker Josh Kim, so appealing.

The first-person video diary project aims to tell the stories of people whose stories don’t usually get told, ranging from a Betel Nut vendor in Myanmar to a fortune-teller in Thailand. Most of the people involved in the videos aren’t really aware of what Glass is and how excited people in more developed countries are about it.

Most instead view it as just another camera, albeit one that doesn’t require giving up the use of their hands.

“[With Glass,] we can see more intimate moments and also the ones that we kind of miss already, because a smartphone takes too long to pull out,” says Kim. “And when you have a big bulky camera, the most funny things or the most interesting things usually happen when you put the camera down.”

• Journalism

It’s tempting to imagine that Glass’s use in journalism would start and end at covert recordings in investigative pieces. Except that’s a little bit silly. Glass might not be massive, but when you’re face to face with someone, it’s hardly subtle now is it?

That’s why it’s encouraging that the University of Southern California is developing a course in using the device in journalism. “The class will consist of teams (journalist, designer, developer) working together to research and develop different types of news apps designed specifically for the Glass platform,” writes digital journalism lecturer Robert Hernandez, who will be developing the course.

• Doctors are using Glass in the operating theater

Despite the constant advancements made in the field of surgery, operating theaters can still be pretty tense places. Surgeons need to walk the tightrope between working methodically and getting their patients into recovery as fast as possible.

As the International Business Times reports, a group of surgeons are testing Glass to see if it can streamline the entire experience.

It’s easy to think of uses for Glass in surgery. Ordinarily, if surgeons needed information they might have to step out of the operating room, using up valuable time — scrub down, look up the information, and scrub up again — but with Glass they’d be able to look up the information on the fly.

Another potential use for Glass being explored by surgeons is in the field of education. Again, it’s easy to see why: with Glass, you get to experience surgery from the point of view of the surgeon without any interruption.

“By just winking, the Glass captures an image of whatever you’re looking at during surgery,” says University of Arizona Medical Centre surgeon Jason Wild. “We’ve tried using other kinds of cameras, but they require touch control which can be a contamination risk. Glass allows us to capture angles otherwise impossible, to help educate our residents.”

• Making driving safer

There are plenty of people looking for ways to make Google Glass part of your everyday driving experience, from car makers such as Tesla and Hyundai to audio and infotainment companies such as Harman International.

Perhaps the most promising Glass app we’ve seen to date, however, comes from a much smaller player and is called DriveSafe. The app uses Glass to sense if you’re about to fall asleep at the wheel and will give you an audio alert if you are. From there, it will ask if you want to be directed to the nearest rest stop.

If you choose to do so, a map will appear on your Glass screen and, theoretically, you should be taken somewhere safe where you can refresh yourself.

• Fighting crime

This one might be a little bit contentious among privacy advocates. The New York Police Department is testing Google Glass as a crime-fighting tool.

Using the right kind of facial-recognition technology, the department hopes that it will be able to bring up a suspect’s police record within seconds of them coming into a police officer’s vision. It’s understandable that some might be uncomfortable with that, but there will definitely be positive side effects. It could, for instance, help bring an end to the city’s controversial “stop and frisk” practices, which have raised concerns around racial profiling and illegal stops.

The department also suggests that it could be used to record interactions between police and suspects, as well as ordinary members of the public.

• Fighting fires

What makes firefighter Patrick Jackson’s efforts with Glass so cool is that he isn’t undertaking them under the direction of a big organisation or in the pursuit of money. Instead, he’s most concerned with making life better for his colleagues.

Jackson has already developed software that allows emergency calls to be directed to the wearable hardware, and inform responders’ direction. Earlier this year, he was also working on apps capable of pulling up floor plans from burning buildings and vehicle diagrams for in-car rescues.

According to CNN, the video Jackson can provide the moment a fire crew arrives at a scene is also crucial for investigations down the line.

• Teaching

Margaret Powers is a junior-school teacher in the United States who was intrigued by Glass from the moment it came out. When the Internet giant announced its explorer programme, she jumped at the opportunity.

As Pandodaily writes, she started a blog called 365 Days of Glass, where she posted every piece of news relating to Glass. Before she received the device, Jackson also solicited advice and recommendations on the technology.

Even with the limited number of apps available, Jackson found a number of ways to use Glass in the classroom, including handing over the device to the children. Perhaps the most valuable use she found for it though was recording lessons and playing them back for analysis. She thinks that’s just the beginning of how we might use Glass in the classroom though. “I wonder what it would be like for pupils to recreate a day in the life of a famous person and literally show how it could have looked and felt to walk in his or her footsteps,” Powers writes on her blog. — Memeburn.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.