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Google Glass in class: one student's experience

By Alban Murtishi
On January 26, 2014

Since the iPhone's first incarnation, the additions made per generation to enhance communication have been incremental at best. However, Google Glass is looking to create a paradigm shift. Google Glass is one of the most innovative and controversial devices developed by Google through Project Glass.
The device is worn around the head like a visor that has a cube shaped optical-head mounted display. The display allows users to view all their typical smartphone applications such as mail, Internet, and social networks. However, Google Glass is activated by a mere glance upwards towards the display, responds to voice commands, and even allows one to take a picture simply by blinking.
Mickey Ward, 7th-semester biology major, has gotten interesting looks around campus thanks to the prototype Google glass he won last semester. After entering an application describing what he would do with a Google glass and his professional background, Ward was allowed the rare opportunity to purchase one the devices.
 "Google Glass is really a device that integrates technology with the present moment, without taking away from your interaction with physical world," Ward said.
Google Glass provides users with the typical smartphone, without forcing their head down into their phone. For example, Ward described a situation in which one can use Google Glass to acquire directions in a foreign city.
"I was basically lost in San Fransisco, and I gave Google Glass a voice command to the address I was going too, and while still being aware of everything going on around me, it gave me perfect directions and all I needed to do was glance up," Ward said. "And it was so convenient because at the same time I was able to have a conversation with somebody."
In subtle ways, Glass shifts the way we interact with technology. Because of the placement of the Glass display, most interactions are made by glancing slightly up, and this acts in antithesis to the act of looking down at one's phone.
Ward has own the device for five weeks now, and in that time he has come up with hypothetical uses for the device as it relates to education. These would include using already present handwriting recognition technology that allows Glass, in tandem with math tutoring websites like Wolfram Alpha, to recognize and provide step by step instruction on how to solve the problem. He has also used it in conversation and debate to seamlessly search and cite articles relating to the discussions.
As for educational use, Ward has said that professors have been largely ambivalent of the device. "Most professors have no clue what it is, and I don't think they would like to single me out." That has not stopped him from integrating it in the classroom. "For example, one time I was in class and the professor put up an interesting slide about climate change. I was able to take a picture of it and share it online within four seconds." Ward said.
When worn, the display looks like a 25-inch television place about 8 feet away from the user, and the screen light adjusts to outdoor brightness. The apps scroll through the display similarly to a slide-show presentation, but as of now it is not incredibly detailed. One can give voice commands to make searches, and there is also a touch sensitive bar on the side of the device for manual use.
From an outsider perspective one can only see the overall color of what the wearer is looking at. Features like this, as well as only having to wink to take a picture, have raised privacy concerns, however, Project Glass discourages this type of use with the device.
While the device raises some eyebrows, either from the privacy concerns, or just the overall peculiarity of walking around with a computer on one's face, the future of how we interact with technology is brought closer with Google Glass. "It's still a prototype and still being developed, but I've had ideas everyday like, 'Wow this could be so much cooler if 'this' was a part of glass," Ward said. 

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