Glass cuts its way into technological future

For some, it may be hard to believe that merely seven years ago, Apple rocked the mobile technological world with the introduction of the iPhone.

In those seven years, it has become nearly impossible for most to imagine a life without some kind of constant connection in the palm of the hand.

Now Google is trying to take that connection to the next level by creating wearable technology that allows users to make phone calls, get directions and take videos and photos with the sound of their voice or a blink of an eye with the creation of Google Glass.

Though entering the explorer program is usually only reserved for a select group that Google approves, on April 15, Google allowed anyone who was willing to plunk down $1,500 to join the program.

USF mass communications professor Rick Wilber, who entered into the Google Glass Explorer program, said there are many benefits for journalists that he wanted to explore. But it was his second love that made him seek out the technological advancement.

Wilber is also a science fiction writer and is currently working on a novel set 10 years in the future about a journalist who wrestles with the era’s technology.

“The character has advanced glasses and is able to do all of these things using a program called ‘My Bob’ or ‘My Sally’ or whatever the customer names it,” he said. “When I first heard about Google Glass, I thought ‘uh oh, this is all happening a lot faster than I thought it was going to happen.’ The book is set 10 years from now, when actually the capability will be available like a year from now.”

After learning about Glass, he said he immediately signed up to buy a pair for research.

He said he has found that Glass is not only beneficial for his novel research, but also research in technological advancement and its future place in journalism.

“For journalism it opens up the world to citizen journalism,” he said. “This will allow journalism to present itself in a brand new way. There is going to develop a brand new skill set that students will need to learn.”

Wilber said he sees a lot of personal benefits to the technology.

“As I walk around campus now, I see on average around 50 students and 49 of them are looking at their phones texting or checking the Internet or emails,” he said. “They live in an internal bubble as they walk around campus. Now with the wearable technology, you’re able to put the phone away, and free up your hands to make it safer to drive or walk around and still have a conversation.”

Though Wilber is a proponent of Glass, he said he does see a lot of bugs and kinks that need to be worked out before it goes public.

“The battery life is a major problem they need to work on as it is only good for under an hour,” he said. “It charges up pretty rapidly, but still diminishes just as quickly. Also, when it’s synched to your phone, the phone’s battery is also getting chewed up.”

After gaining a familiarity and comfort with it, he passed the product around to various mass communications and information systems professors for them to explore the product.

Information science professor Alon Friedman took Wilber up on the offer and borrowed the Glass for 10 days. Friedman found more issues than just the battery life that Google needs to work on — more specifically its compatibility with iPhone.

“There is only one application available for the iPhone,” Friedman said. “It does not provide a lot of things for me that others can take advantage of. I only got to learn about the weather. It is exciting to know about the weather, but I expected much more.”

Friedman said he understands it is in the early stages of development, but he anticipated it to be better.

“I expected more experiences, more platforms and more applications,” he said. “I did not find the interaction I was expecting in the device. Yes it takes beautiful pictures, but what else can it do?”

Though he is not overly impressed, he says he sees the potential.

“It is an exciting experience,” he said. “Hopefully it will allow other companies to compete and offer better services.”

Wilber also sees another concern that needs to be addressed, and it is a concern that has taken critics of the device by storm — privacy.

“If everyone is walking around with Glass, they could be taking videos or pictures of everyone else,” Wilber said. “Unless you are in your house or in your office, with the door closed, you could constantly be on public display. Everyone becomes the paparazzi of everyone else.”