Imagine being able to send an email, check the weather or record video hands-free as you walk around campus, all by using a pair of glasses.
Seem too good to be true? Not to psychology professor Laura Freberg, who was recently invited by her daughter to become a Google Glass Explorer.
“My daughter Karen is a social media professor at Louisville,” Freberg said. “We all love tech. We’re all kind of geeky in our family.”
After winning her Glass through a social media contest over the summer, Karen invited her mother to join.
“She had this opportunity to invite, and I said ‘Yeah, sure, I’d like to try,’” Freberg said.
The Glass — eyeglass frames with a small screen and camera in the corner of the right eye — has capabilities similar to an iPhone or computer and is navigated by voice commands and a touch-sensitive bar on the side of the right frame.
“The Explorer Program launched earlier this year and is designed for people who want to get involved early and help shape the future of Glass,” the Google Glass website states. “We’re expanding The Explorer Program little by little and experimenting with different ways of bringing new Explorers into the program.”
After her daughter recommended her for the program, Freberg emailed back and forth with Google representatives to confirm her background. As a blogger and psychologist, Freberg was an ideal candidate. Ultimately, Google looks for users who will experiment and provide feedback on the product, Freberg said.
“They want to make sure that you have something to bring the table,” Freberg said. “They want a variety of people. I think what they’re trying to do is find out what all the possible uses are.”
Freberg is now part of the Glass Explorers community group on Google, where she can connect with other Glass users and see how the product is being used around the world. The group, which has approximately 18,000 members, shows people from doctors to race car drivers all using Glass.
Though Freberg jokes about putting the Glass on her dog for a “dog’s-eye” view, she already has some ideas about how to use it in the fields of psychology and academics.
“I teach sensation and perception, so my initial interests academically are just kind of the Cal Poly Learn By Doing. What does this do for divided attention?” Freberg said. “It’s actually really unobtrusive; it’s extremely unobtrusive.”
Freberg is also interested in potentially using Glass as adaptive technology for people with physical handicaps. One of her students, psychology junior Amber Garman, is a quadriplegic and has trouble using her hands.
“This is perfect for her,” Freberg said. “It’s voice activated, she can take notes by speaking. She can do all of the functionality by tapping the side.”
Since Garman has limited use of her fingers, voice recording notes could make lectures easier, Garman said. She said she could also use the Glass instead of a computer at home.
“The coolest part that was unexpected was it was really comfortable,” Garman said. “I thought it was going to be not so comfortable, and when I put them on, it was like, ‘Whoa, I’m wearing, like, nothing.’”
Though Garman only used the Glass briefly, she sees the benefits both academically and for entertainment purposes.
“Especially for the disabled community, this is really, really advanced technology that will really help us,” Garman said.
Freberg is also exploring the benefits of the Glass as a classroom tool, both for professors and students alike. She and her daughter are proposing a presentation on best practices in the classroom for an academic conference, and Glass is one method they’ll be looking at, she said.
“There’s everything from kindergarten teachers up through university teachers using Glass, so we want to kind of sift through all of those entries and see what seems to make the most sense,” she said. “Right now, the demonstration capabilities seem really promising.”
The ability to show students a demonstration by recording a professor’s line of sight has numerous opportunities to be used academically, Freberg said. Students could watch virtual office hours, field trips and online classes remotely through the Glass via Google “hangout.”
“It’s probably going to un-tether the learning experience from the physical location of the university,” Freberg said.
Though the technology is still new, Freberg is already thinking about how equipping students with Glass could revolutionize the classroom.
“The other question is what can students do with it? What if we equipped everyone in the class with Glass? How could we use that as a collaboration tool?” she asked.
Now several weeks into being a Glass Explorer, Freberg is enjoying playing with her new technology. As a psychologist, she’s a people watcher, and is having fun observing people’s reactions when she wears Glass in public.
“I was almost late to school yesterday because I was trying to get out of the parking lot and a student just stopped dead in his tracks and wanted to know everything there was to know about it,” she said.
Though some people are fascinated, others are concerned. The Glass has been criticized for possible invasions of privacy, Freberg said. Rest assured, though, she’s not using it as “stalker cam.”
“It’s like any tool, it depends on the user,” Freberg said. “You can use it effectively or you can use it for great evil. I hope to use it as effectively as possible.”
Freberg encourages students interested in learning about Glass to come by her office hours for a “test drive” and bring ideas about how she can best use it.
“I’m trying to be creative with it, but students are way more creative than I am,” Freberg said. “Certainty with the collective wisdom of 18,000 of you, somebody’s got some good ideas.”