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Google Glass gives Miami visions of future

By Emma Kete, Emily Crane
On October 4, 2013

A group of Miami University students were chosen to be some of the select few Americans to try out the newest Google technology that has everyone raving: Google Glass.

Imagine a product in such demand that consumers must submit an application to purchase it. Not only that, but if they have the honor of being selected, they must pay $1,500 and purchase a flight to New York or Los Angeles to pick it up. Google's latest innovation, the Google Glass, is the envy of techies from all backgrounds, according to Interdisciplinary Librarian Jen Waller.

To be considered for selection, Glass hopefuls had to send a tweet using the hashtag #ifihadglass to explain what they would do with the product. Waller was one of 8,000 "glassholes" selected to be among the first to play with the new gadget, with the winning tweet: "MT @glennplatt: #ifihadglass my students and I would show that learning is everywhere. We'd help lead our university redefine higher ed."

An innovation grant from the Miami University library funded Waller's purchase, but the Glass is hers to use, according to Library Coordinator of Strategic Communications Peter Thorsett.

"The innovation grants allow employees to play around with new ideas like this," Thorsett said. "We like to encourage that kind of work."

Though the Glass belongs to Waller, she spends a great deal of time sharing it with students and using it as a teaching tool in the classroom, as she promised to do in her tweet.

"I'm really interested in privacy and sharing and I like using this device to teach about it," Waller said. "Our lives are richer when we share. Online support groups and image sharing are examples of this. With Glass, all photos taken are automatically uploaded to Google Plus, so it's a good tool to talk about these things."

Waller has been speaking in Interactive Media Studies (IMS) classrooms and allowing students to try out the technology for themselves.

Sophomore computer science major Chris Dieter was one of the students in an IMS class who got to play with the new technology. Each student in the class got around five minutes with the glasses and got to test it out however they wanted, Dieter said.

Dieter said the glasses reminded him of a smartphone, but that made it no less impressive. The voice-operated headpiece is indeed similar in function to a smartphone - except the screen is right in front of the user's eyes. Users wear it like they would a pair of glasses, and can snap photos or shoot videos from the camera mounted next to the eyepiece. The Glass can also do everything from run a CNN live news feed to give directions to the closest pizzeria.

This version of the technology is called the Explorer Edition and Google is using the feedback from its initial 8,000 guinea-pig consumers to work out the kinks. Some of the biggest issues with it so far have been its short battery life and its dependence on wireless connectivity, Waller said.

"Without a Wi-Fi connection it's really just a head-mounted camera," Waller said.

In addition to problems with the device's functionality, the Glass has been raising concerns about privacy. A Seattle restaurant, for instance, has banned the technology on their premises out of fear of people using it to take pictures without asking permission. Waller pointed out however, that this is already an existing issue with smartphone cameras and telephoto lenses and is not unique to the Glass.

"This is just a knee-jerk reaction to new technology," Waller said.

In time, she argued, people will get used to the idea and may even begin to see its benefits. Over at the Ohio State University for instance, the medical school is playing around with the possibility of using the technology to do remote surgeries, Waller said.

In the meantime, Waller will continue to let students decide for themselves what they think about the technology.

"My goal is to get it in as many students' hands as possible," Waller said.

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