Courtesy of The Review
‘Glass’ allows users to project virtual pictures over their natural eyesight.
Ten years ago, smart phones were just hitting the market. These early devices evolved into today’s standard tools, incorporating web browsing, photo and video taking capabilities, media players and GPS navigation, among other features. The next evolution, according to Google, is wearable technology.
Google Glass, which should be available to purchase by the end of the year, is the latest gadget by Google, the company best known for its search engine and Android mobile operating system. The device, which resembles a pair of glasses, allows users to access simple computing tools without using their hands, according to the marketing video released by Google in February. The information is then shown on a small display, which is attached to the lenses.
The reactions to Glass, however, are mixed. Junior electrical engineering student Dylan Ross says he believes wearable technology will be the next large trend, but Google Glass might not necessarily be the product to launch that trend.
“Everybody eventually will go towards technology like this, pulling away from phones and other tech that requires you to use your hands,” Ross says. “As people are looking more for ways to do things on the go, products like Google Glass will allow anyone to look up that information with ease.”
The marketing video shows that the current Glass prototype is able to record videos and take photos, use the Google search engine, translate text, give directions, send messages, display weather data, show informational data such as flight details and participate in video conferences through Google’s social networking site, Google+.
While Google has not yet revealed the complete list of features and specs of the upcoming product, it has been announced that Glass will have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection capabilities and a small battery stored in the frame. Sound will be transmitted to the user not through a traditional method such as headphones, but by sending small vibrations directly into the wearer’s skull. The vibrations will then be picked up by the inner ear and turned into sound.
Junior computer science major Ryan O’Dowd says the product is definitely innovative, but he does not see himself purchasing Glass, unless it drops well below its initial selling price of $1,500.
O’Dowd says he hopes the product does well but thinks the lack of usefulness is the main reason why a product as innovative as Glass might not immediately be successful in the market.
“The biggest thing is going to be convincing people why they need Glass,” he says. “It’s a cool idea, but what does it offer me that I can’t do with a smartphone?”
That being said, the potential success of Glass may depend on comparing the features to those that are not offered on smartphones—the augmented reality of having traditional vision enhanced by overlaid data or other information.
Chien-Chung Shen, a computer science professor, says Glass’ augmented reality has many applicable uses. One such use could be as a virtualization tool within civil engineering. For example, augmented reality would enable engineers to more quickly evaluate damage to structures after a natural disaster.
“You could superimpose the original building that was in the right form, standing,” Shen says. “They could then make a comparison to see how bad the damage really is.”
Ross says Glass has plenty of potential to be used in an academic setting—if professors allow it to be used. Students would not need to bring notebooks or laptops to class and Glass would function similar to Course Capture, he says. Glass could also allow students to record lectures with ease and then go back and watch footage about subjects they were confused on, he says.
The ability to seamlessly record audio and video could also present potential privacy issues, Ross says. Modern face-detection technology would allow individuals to identify strangers when passing them by, and then take pictures or videos with anonymity.
O’Dowd says he agrees the immediate accessibility of recording features on Glass could potentially make it easier for users to record sensitive material.
“Sure, if someone wants to do something like that, they could do that without using Google Glass,” O’Dowd says. “But Glass does make it easier.”
Yet, Shen says while privacy laws could be an issue, they should not be a large concern. There are plenty of tools such as spy pens and other gadgets that are able to record audio and video, and there has not been any large problems with those, he says.
Another issue Shen says may be of some concern is safety. Glass will probably have a similar impact as many new technologies do concerning potential issues with users getting distracted by the device when performing sensitive tasks such as driving. This is comparable, he says, to when cell phones first started being commonplace.
“After some time, people should get used to it and be able to differentiate between what is real and what is projected on the Glass,” Shen says.
Ross says he is interested in science as an engineering major but is not a “tech freak,” so he will probably not buy the new Google product right away, if at all. He was interested in the feature, but says he does not think the invention will have a large impact on his life.
“I don't feel the need to buy it as I don't think it would change my life drastically,” Ross says.