The Practical Applications for Google Glass

Google Glass

When I first heard about Google Glass I thought that many a sci-fi fanatics dreams could be coming true. Yet I had to compose myself and be reminded that the wearables market is an extremely hard one to crack, with so many pieces of hardware not able to get off the ground. The commercial failure of the Xybernaut Poma Wearable PC came to mind initially as well as the more recent cut back by Nike to the team behind the Fuelband. For all of the failures within the wearable market Google are working hard to bring practical applications, and not just novelty, with their latest innovation Google Glass. This article will discuss some of the uses people have been finding for the hardware.

For those who do not know, Google Glass is a wearable computer that takes on the form of a pair of glasses. It has an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that communicates information to the wearer in a similar fashion to a smartphone. It is designed to be hands-free and voice activated, although a touchpad is also incorporated above the right ear. Glass, for short, is still in beta stage but can be brought through signing up to Google’s Glass Explorer Program for a price of £1,000 ($1,500) plus tax. The Glass Explorer program was originally opened up to individuals that could expand the capabilities of the wearable and find further uses for it that the team hadn’t envisaged. Through an augmented reality, wherein information can be laid over real-world events and images, Glass has exciting potential for innovation.

Patrick Jackson, a firefighter from North Carolina, has been developing an app that will provide firefighters with information on specific buildings that they have to enter, such as blueprints and the owner’s contact information. The app can also alert the firefighter to the nearest water hydrant. This is as well as bringing up car diagrams that allow firefighters to know the best entry points and places to cut crashed vehicles. All of this allows the fireman to save time and potentially lives.

Another app developed by Jake Steinerman, called DriveSafe, makes use of Glass’ built-in infrared sensors to detect if a driver falls asleep behind the wheel. You activate the programme by saying, ‘OK Glass, keep me awake’. Through analysing the motion of the wearer’s eye, alongside a tilt sensor, the app determines if the user is falling asleep. If they are, DriveSafe alerts the driver with a noise and uses a text notification to tell them they are going to sleep. The driver can then tap on Glass and be directed by GPS to the closest rest area.

Google-Glass-NYPD

The NYPD and Byron police forces in America have been looking toward Glass as a way of enhancing the safety of officers and citizens. The recording feature of Glass would allow the conduct of officers to be monitored. Some police officers are already equipped with similar recording devices as a way to prove or dis-prove claims by both officers and citizens. However these devices don’t feature hands-free voice commands and location information.

Commercial enterprises are also turning to Glass as a possible means of improving service. In February Virgin Atlantic began a six week trial with Glass. Virgin was trying to enhance the flying experience and improve efficiency through the use of Glass. The “Upper Class” passengers had staff that were wearing Glass who could begin checking passengers in with the wearable right after they were greeted. As well as this, Glass allowed staff to keep passengers up to date with the latest flight information, weather and local events at their destination.

Wordlens

Perhaps one of the most exciting features of Glass is the real-time language translation. Apps such as Word Lens and UniSpeech allow the wearer to break down language barriers with ease. The apps translate multiple languages almost instantly. With Word Lens all the wearer has to do is get the printed text they wish to translate within frame and Glass will do the rest. UniSpeech covers the other aspect of language by translating spoken words. It does this by recognising the words with Nuance SpeechKit API which are then translated through Google Translate API.

In light of these, as well as other developments, it seems that Google really are trying to create a wearable that can’t be cast aside as a gimmick. However, for that to happen I think it will need to be accessible to a considerable proportion of the market. The price will have to drop a considerable way for us “everyday folk”, which I’m sure it eventually will.

For more on these topics, have a look on these links below:

CNN

DriveSafe

NYPDVirgin

Word Lens and UniSpeech

Jack is a Falmouth University graduate and a self-employed writer with a love of technology.