Through the Google Glass: Digital headwear could change face of technology
By Robert Norris | (email@example.com)
It’s the greatest convergence of information and communication technology ever or the greatest threat to personal privacy ever invented.
How about both?
Google Glass is the name, and it really is a 21st century way of going through the looking glass.
That fits Kathi Browne to a “T.” She’s a social media consultant who is focused on health care applications. That’s why the Maryville resident is a Google Glass Explorer. That puts her on the cutting edge.
So what is Google Glass? It’s Google’s attempt to change the face of technology by persuading people to wear computers on their heads.
It’s a spectacle-like device that contains a hidden computer, a thumbnail-size transparent display screen above the right eye and other digital wizardry.
This Internet-connected headgear is set up to let users receive search results, read email, scan maps for directions and engage in video chats without reaching for a smartphone. Google Glass’s grasp of voice commands even makes it possible to shoot hands-free photos and videos.
Google Glass is not on the market. It was available for a while for the inflated price of $1,500 plus tax to those who applied to be Google Explorers and were accepted by the company to develop apps for the device and improve its next generation design. When it finally is available for purchase, expect Google Glass to be sold in the $500 price range.
Browne didn’t exactly fit the mold of people who were selected by Google because they wanted to develop apps and be the first ones to put them on the market.
“I went to Google, I have some friends there,” Browne said, referring to her trip to company headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. (the Googleplex).
Her interview went like this: “He asked me, ‘Are you planning any great developments or any apps that you really want to get out there and get solved?’ I said, ‘No, I applied to be accepted into this because this is going to get me inside the door to meet all kinds of fun people.’
“He said he’d never heard anybody say that’s why they spent this kind of money on Google Glass. And I said, well it’s working for me. I just get to meet people.”
Taking a fall
So she does. She, along with about 10,000 others, passed the interview and earned the title of Google Explorer. She’s not so much as an app developer as a facilitator.
She learned about a company in Oak Ridge that had designed a node technology that acts as a sensor and can be adapted to either sense light changes, movement changes, vibrations, temperature changes or gas changes.
“I read about it and I thought, gosh, there’s got to be a way to apply that to health care,” Browne said.
“So I reached out to one of the guys and said, ‘Why don’t you join me in a virtual discussion?’ I have broadcast hangouts online and I bring up topics in health care and just let the whole world participate. I said I want to bring you into the health care community, I want you to tell them what your technology does. And then I want you to listen to where they think this could apply in health care and see if anything happens.”
Something did happen. People started jumping on the discussion. The topic of falls prevention emerged. Would it be possible to adapt this Oak Ridge technology to Google Glass so it could set off an alarm if an elderly person was moving in an unstable manner?
“That night somebody was watching from outside the hangout who wasn’t in the conversation. They took that whole conversation down to a 10-minute little piece and forwarded it as a pitch to a foundation that was doing research in falls prevention in the elderly, and asked if they would be interested in coming up with the parameters,” Browne said.
“Now just in that short period of time, all that technology has been kind of married together and we’re waiting to see what comes of it. It’s just really exciting.”
Not everyone is so excited — especially those with privacy concerns. To those people, there’s sort of a you see me, I may not see you seeing me, now the whole world is seeing me through your Google Glass. To some that’s scary.
Accosted in store
Browne wears her Google Glass a lot. She gets questions and funny looks — and she got this from a man at a store.
“Here’s one thing I explained to the guy in the who accosted me in the grocery: ‘If I’m going to do something, you can see it, you can see the glow. It’s not like I can do this in a quiet environment.’
“And he said, ‘I don’t know to look at that.’ And I said, ‘What about my smartphone. How many people in the grocery store are carrying smartphones and you don’t worry about them holding it up — and they’re not wearing it on their face.’
“And he said, ‘Either one, I hate ’em both.’”
So far, only eight applications from The New York Times, Facebook, Twitter, Path, Evernote, CNN, Tumblr and Elle magazine have been approved for use on the Explorer edition.
Browne is convinced that’s just a beginning, and she’s along for the ride and loving it.
“It’s partly to build relationships. I’m a social media consultant, so it helps me to play nice with Google. This is especially a great tool for me to connect to the health care community,” she said.
And it puts her on the cutting edge.
“That’s the most fun.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.