Google’s glimpse into the future

Almost everyone these days has a smartphone, and they are constantly being updated and improved; becoming slimmer, voice-controlled, and recently even being connected to a smartwatch. With all these changes, could Google Glass be the next gadget to make its way into our daily lives?

Much like a smartphone, Google Glass connects wirelessly to the internet. E-mails and texts can be sent and received, and music can be streamed from it. However, this piece of technology comes in the form of a pair of glasses, and is controlled by voice or touch commands. The team at Google Glass is working on the technology, and has asked the University of Edinburgh to be a part of their research.

The University of Edinburgh has been given 20 pairs to use, and has been asking students and societies to put forward ideas for ways to use the equipment for educational purposes. It is the only UK university to be taking part. The deadline for proposals was the 30th January, and prospective participants were asked to think of the practical and ethical issues that may come into play in the proposal.

The best ideas that were put forward will be put into use in practical experiments by the end of May, and could lead to real changes in coursework activities.

Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web at the University of Edinburgh, said that: “Wearable technology is becoming increasingly popular and I expect more people will start to use fitness tracker wristbands, smart watches and smart glasses this year.”

Google Glass is currently developing their next generation of glasses, so this could be a common sight in the future. A great advantage to this type of ‘wearable technology’ is that it is hands-free, so could be particularly useful to record or read information whilst working on practical subjects.

There have been some concerns with the technology, with many people raising issues to do with personal security, and even simply the aesthetic appeal of the glasses themselves. Although the hands-free glasses mean that users can record with ease, there are also worries about a feeling of being watched. Highton commented on these issues: “New technology also brings challenges. Some people worry that smart glasses impinge on privacy and could be used for surveillance. We are asking Edinburgh students to think about these issues too as wearables become more and more common in our daily lives”. Some have suggested that Google create a model that does not include the camera to lessen such concerns.

Whilst there are some worries over the use of Google Glass, the experiments in operation are working towards the positive achievements. There has already been a practical experiment in Edinburgh in which 15 people were chosen to cycle around Inverleith Park and beyond using Google Glass, whilst also wearing an electroencephalography headset to measure their stress levels. Whilst cycling and recording, the users were asked to voice their concerns and feelings. This experiment, called “Brains on Bikes”, was done in the hope of creating an app that warns cyclists of dangers on the road, the use of which could encourage people to cycle more often.

As Google Glass is such new technology, there are bound to be problems, but whilst Google is working on the next generation of glasses, the experiments happening in Edinburgh and around the world will help to figure out any practical difficulties and issues that may put users off such a modern piece of equipment. It will be interesting to see whether or not these futuristic spectacles will one day form a part of our daily lives.


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