Developed in 2012, Google Glass was officially released for beta testing early this year. Few lucky participants were approved to test the device for the price of $1,500, and Andy Boyan, a communication studies professor, was able to get his hands on his very own Google Glass this month.
Boyan had help funding his Google Glass; he reached out to Guy Cox, the director of the Ferguson Center for Technology-Aided Teaching and Learning, who agreed to help secure the funds to purchase Google Glass. Cox’s interest in Google Glass was sparked both by potential education applications and passion for expanding Digital Liberal Arts here at Albion.
“When [Boyan] came and talked to me about using [Google Glass] in the classroom, we scouted ideas about how they could be pedagogically, used and since they’re so new, nobody really knows,” Cox said. “It was a perfect chance to try it out and see what we can learn, both in the classroom and I think he may have some ideas about how they can fit into his research and topics he’s interested in.”
Boyan plans to implement Google Glass into a summer course here at Albion, and he hopes to learn how technology like Google Glass will help him during lecture and how it will help his students. His interest in Google Glass stems further than that though, as Boyan is extremely interested in the augmented reality aspect of Google Glass, as well as its education applications. Boyan likened augmented reality to the HUD in the Iron Man suit portrayed in the recent Marvel Studios films. The idea is that, just as it works in the suit, Glass users can see the real world in front of them, but the technology overlaps the landscape and interacts with what the user can see.
“This is kind of the first really big try of a company trying to put it [augmented reality] on your face,” Boyan said. “I’m very plugged into that whole network, so I think last year the opportunity to sign up for the beta came out and I just signed up and said ‘Yeah I’ll buy a pair when they come out,’ and I just got the e-mail about a month ago that I was approved to buy a pair.”
Because Google Glass is such a new product, there are some flaws in the design and software. For example, Glass is turned on by the user activating a button on the right temple that lets the system know that someone is wearing Google Glass. But as Boyan pointed out, occasionally the shape of a user’s head could prevent Glass from activating, making Google Glass impossible to use for certain potential customers. There are also other bugs in Glass’s system that need to be addressed with future generations of the product, but Boyan points out that the trial and error is all part of the development of Google Glass.
“It’s new so to get a product right, to get a technology right, you have to send it out into the world and see how people are going to use it,” Boyan said. “If Google were to just keep it with their own company and figure out how their employees are using it, that’s only how Google employees are using it and I might use it totally differently. And in fact I’m sure I am going to use it totally differently. That said though, you have to send it out buggy and hope that people won’t complain too much.”
With the exception of a few bugs, Glass has some truly wonderful applications and uses that Boyan has discovered during his time with the product.
“The coolest [feature] is ‘translate’,” Boyan said. “When you say ‘okay Glass, translate this’ it gives you a bunch of options and if we’re looking at a text, it will turn the words into the Spanish words. Same color of font same size of fonts same background, it just changes, it’s not subtitles it just switches. The first time I saw that it was like magic. It was crazy.”
Boyan says that a product like Glass will truly take off when users begin to tinker with the software and discover Google Glass’ “killer app”—this would be something like texting with cell phones that made cell phones gain immediate popularity. Boyan said that though there isn’t any killer app he can observe currently with Glass, it’s only a matter of time before more people have access to the product and can create new uses for it.
“When somebody figures out what that killer app is for having something right in front of you, then this will go nuts,” Boyan said.
And because Boyan now has access to Glass and is learning about the software and applications, Albion College is hoping to be ready when Google Glass does gain wild popularity.
“At some point the students are going to show up with these and we’re going to have to know how to handle it,” Cox said. “We have to know if our networks can handle it, how it works, what it will do, what is the load going to be, how do we respond how will other students respond, those types of things.”
Because of technology’s rapidly evolving pace, both Boyan and Cox figure that it’s only a matter of time before faculty and students will both have to adjust to the presence of Google Glass or similar products in their lives. The adjustment to technology like this will include new questions about privacy and observation, as well as setting and enforcing a new set of social conduct for Glass and its uses. Boyan is already learning about Glass’ impact on those around him, and with the knowledge he is gaining, Albion is hoping to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to Glass and its applications.
Photo by Alexa Hyman