Somebody has probably told you to walk a mile in their shoes at some point in your life. It’s a common expression, but never really a possibility.
Soon, it might become something as common as texting on your smart phone with the development of wearable technology.
Google Glass, a hands-free intelligence device, is one of many devices trying to become the next big thing. Glass was released to 10,000 people across the world earlier this year, and some at West Virginia University are getting the opportunity to experiment with it.
You may see two WVU professors in the P.I. Reed School of Journalism,—Dana Coester and Mary Kay McFarland, or sophomore mechanical engineering student Ephraim Pittore or Mountaineer volleyball coach Jill Kramer wearing Glass around campus this semester.
Coester is active in the augmented reality and learnable technology communities, and received Glass with the goal to put a journalist at the seat of the table among many engineers and developers. She found that many of those people were discussing story, audience, ethics and law all things journalists should be experts in when talking about Google Glass or other similar technologies.
“Journalism is fighting a battle where technology companies were taking over the roles of media companies, and I don’t even think it knew it was in one to be honest,” she said. “Media institutions were not becoming technology institutions.”
Coester and her developer Shaun Vendryes plan to create an app for Google Glass for journalists. They’ll call it Storyville, and Coester hopes that it will be one of the first journalism-based apps for hyper-local and community-based storytelling. It’s expected to be released in beta form by the end of the year. This isn’t the first time they’ve set out to create an app. They also created a smartphone app called Mobile Main St.
“Whenever you’re working with new applications, you don’t have framework to build on. You’re having to make stuff from scratch,” she said. “There is always going to be technology around the corner. Why not get really accustomed to experimenting in those spaces in the very beginning? I don’t want to wait to know how other people are going to use it. I want to invent a use of our own.
“The only way to influence the outcomes is to participate in them early and try to have some say in it early. We like to do it at the community level.”
Coester has been surprised by the usability of Glass since she’s had it. She believes in a few years wearable technology will be as common as smartphones are today.
Kramer is the Mountaineers’ fourth-year volleyball coach. The social media savvy coach applied for Google Glass with a simple preface: she’d coach her team in Glass, and to her knowledge, she’d be the first collegiate volleyball coach in the country to do so.
“The biggest reaction I get in response to me wearing the Glass is, ‘you have that?’” Kramer said. “People care about it. They want to know more.”
Click below to hear the WVUToday radio spot on this these Glass-wearing Mountaineers.
Kramer sees many benefits with using Glass, particularly in promotion of the team and recruiting. Her hope is to use Glass to produce videos from the road and to show the experiences of a college volleyball program as it travels around the country. She’d like to use it during warm-ups of matches and in timeouts, as well. The NCAA has restrictions on sideline recording during matches; otherwise she’d wear them there, too.
“It’s even beneficial for our coaching staff, because it allows us to go back and listen to how we sound and how it’s coming across to the girls,” Kramer said. “We can utilize it to be better coaches for sure.”
Her coaching staff is now able to contact its Class of 2015 targets and hopes to give them an inside look at the program.
“The great thing about it in recruiting is that it creates conversation. If there’s something cool out there like Glass, and I’m connected to it, that’s a good thing,” she said. “It’s not really just about me. It’s about our entire sport and how we can utilize it the best that we can.”
Kramer hopes to present her program’s usage of Google Glass at an upcoming NCAA coaching, as well.
McFarland’s first time using Glass ended with her accidentally calling her father and sending a photo to a friend. So, as you’d probably expect, there’s a bit of a learning curve.
After getting used to them, however, she’s found many potential uses for Glass and is making it a part of her documentary storytelling class West Virginia Uncovered.
“This device is going to give news audiences a front-row experience and will allow us to work with video in new and innovative ways,” she said.
While she doesn’t believe Glass can be used to tell a complete documentary, there are aspects of the narrative that might be told better through Glass than a more traditional arm’s length approach. Her class has already found that when using Glass instead of a video camera, a user has to move his/her body to limit the frame, because Glass shoots an entire person’s field of vision.
“I’m hoping that we would be able to have people who are the subjects of our stories wear them so that you would actually get to walk a mile in someone’s shoes. I feel like that’s an exciting thing to add to any documentary project,” she said. “Usually, we get people to tell us something, and then we film what they describe. In this sense, they can show us. This is a better opportunity to let people experience what others see. It’s a more intimate way to look through a person’s eyes.”
Her class will experiment with Glass in rural West Virginia settings to see what its limitations are with potential connectivity issues.
McFarland will also delve into the potential ethical ramifications of a product like Glass, which allows you to record photos and video without potentially giving notice to those being recorded.
Pittore, a sophomore from Wayne, entered a Google Glass submission with a friend for fun, because they enjoy creating and designing. He wants a career product development, so he quickly set out to find a creative way to use Glass.
He said in his submission post on Google Glass: ”#ifihadglass Glass would read to me. My love for reading should not be hindered by travel. Finding novels and short-stories placed in locations by the Glass community would constantly feed my imagination!”
Pittore hopes to combine storytelling and geocaching to do this. The idea would allow people to communicate using Glass of course through literature placed around the world.
“We just asked ourselves what we thought would be cool,” Pittore said. “Glass is natural. It blends into the world.”
In the few months he’s had to experience Glass, Pittore said he’s found it to be a “pretty cool experience.” He has used it more as a tool than an everyday piece of technology. When it comes to sharing information like photos and video, he says there’s nothing better.
Pittore expects to use Glass this semester during classes and while hanging out with friends. One aspect of Glass Pittore is excited to try is the ability to take discrete videos of math problems or scientific equations being solved during class.
“If I were to take a picture or write it down, I’m going to get the end result. With Glass, I’d be able to take video to get the progression before the result,” he said. “In most of the sciences, you have to know the method and the solution, so with Glass it will be possible to have both.”
By Tony Dobies
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