Monday, April 28, 2014

Google Glass through the eyes of Undergraduate Students: A Review

A faculty member tries on Google Glass for the first time.

A couple weeks after getting Google Glass (as part of the Explorer Program) I decided to loan it to a group of undergraduate students who work in the Instructional Technology department at my institution.  While I enjoyed my first wearable technology experience, it became pretty clear that the younger generation (and the more socially active/connected) could get more out of Google Glass than I could.  While I work professionally in technology, I am not actively texting friends and spending a great deal of time on social platforms via my mobile phone like these students are.

The four students were very excited to get their hands on Glass and explore a few outcomes that line up with our institution's- through the eyes of Google Glass.  The only thing that the students were required to do was to journal their experiences and report out at a student Achievement Showcase that is held every April on our campus.  You can find the student's blog entries here.

The Google Glass undergraduate team (the four in dark and gray suits) before their presentation April 22nd

Google Glass' Strengths and Weaknesses from an Undergraduate Student Perspective


The students came up with a list of strengths and weaknesses of the Google Glass unit.

Strengths:

  • Quick and Discreet Picturing Taking: Glass has a button on the top that can be pressed to take a picture at anytime. The same can be done by winking.
  • Communication (Incoming): Text messages and emails display directly on the Glass screen as soon as they are received.
  • Easy Time Check: The clock home screen on Glass can be seen by raising your head or tapping the side of Glass once.
  • Navigation: Glass can display turn-by-turn navigation without being too distracting.
  • Being Unobtrusive: Before I got to test Glass, I figured that this big screen would always be interrupting my field of vision when I wasn't using it. It turned out that I would forget I was wearing Glass because it was out of sight and out of mind.
  • Phone integration: the android phone integration appears to be seamless most of the time.
Limitations:
  • Call Quality: I don't know if it is just because of the size of my head, but I find it hard to hear anyone when making a call through Glass. I believe this is because there is a small gap between my head and the speaker built into the frame of Glass.
  • Voice Command: Glass become nearly useless when I'm in an area where I cannot issue voice command (class and the library).
  • Communication (Outgoing): I find it difficult to respond to text messages through voice command. Although it is a neat feature, it can be tedious.
  • Battery Life: Glass has a battery life of approximately 5 hours of normal use.
  • Mic Sensitivity: Glass will accept voice command given by people across the room from me.
  • Bulkyness: Obviously, Glass is still bulky. I'm sure Google will cut this size down on Glass over time, but for now it just isn't very cool looking.
read more from this post

Google Glass Easter Egg


The students even managed to find a Google Glass Easter Egg, which was, "a 360 degree panoramic picture of the Google Glass team. The entire team is circled around you. If you want to look at the people to your left, you turn to your left. If you want to look at the people behind you, you turn around. You can also look at the ceiling or at the floor. This gives you an idea about the possibilities that can come from Glass and some ideas of features that we can expect in the future." read more from this post

What's Next for Wearable Technology?

The students did a great job exploring Google Glass, far better than I could have done due to their sheer enthusiasm for trying out one of the first prototypes of wearable technology.

As we move forward to version 2 Google Glass or smart watches, the students will all remember the first time they put Google Glass on, much like I recall using the Internet for the first time at a library when I was their age.

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University.     


Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Google Glass Doesn't Appear to Hold a Charge Well

I am not sure if all Google Glass Explorer's are encountering the same issues that I am experiencing. I have read about the short battery life with usage, which seems very acceptable, but I can't seem to charge the unit very well at all.  Apparently, the Google Glass unit is meant to ship charged and ready to go (according to the directions that come with the unit).

After I initially received Glass, I opened the package (very attractive Apple-like packaging) and then followed the instructions and turned on the unit. After putting the unit on I was greeted with the battery icon and that was all.  Figuring that the battery was low, I used the attached power cable and charged the unit for several hours.

That evening I took home Glass to play with and was able to turn on the unit, connect it to my Apple iPhone IOS Glass App and go through some of the tutorials and take a photo or two, Google a few things with voice, and stumble around the menus.  I then turned off the unit and put it away after 15 minutes or so of use.  My wife inquired whether or not I could rename the Google Glass, rather than saying aloud "Ok Glass" over and over, which she found irritating.

I beginning to think my Google Glass won't hold a charge very well at all.


The next morning in my office I took out Glass and put them on and was greeted with the same battery icon.  I then charged the unit again, this time from 10am to 2:30pm.  I turned the unit on with it's interior side button and put on Glass.  This time I got the battery 46% charged (so 8 hours for complete charge?).  Ok, you would expect some more life after Glass was connected to a regular power strip for four hours (yes, it is on!) and the charge indicator light is slowly pulsating- as it should when charging.

I am new with Glass but used to working with peripherals and emerging technology in general.  While I realize I need to spend more time with Glass, I am starting to think that the unit simply won't charge very well at all.

The jury is out (I realize), I need to spend more time with Glass, and more updates are sure to follow.

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University

Friday, October 25, 2013

TV Spots Increasingly Feature the American Family Laden with Mobile Devices

The holidays are in the air and I can't help but notice the ads on TV for the new connected devices and computers.  The American family, whether white or black, seem to be portrayed as laden down with technology these days wherever they are. Whether the fam is out and about in the streets or around the kitchen, everyone has a device.  Dogs seem the only family members that are not packing a device, but that will happen too (they have their own entertainment channels now).

Watch the commercial


The most disturbing commercial is the one with the family out in the street on Halloween (image above). There they are, all decked out in elaborate Star Wars costumes each with a tablet, smartphone, or even a smartwatch.  The kid is double-fisted with tech (I think so much so his candy bag is tied to his costume) - oh yeah, and they are standing 2 feet from each other mapping out what houses are giving out the "good" candy.  Instead of Trick-o-Treating,  our modern family is starring down at their devices.  There is something sad and disturbing about the whole scene.  Verizon wants us to feel as though we will miss out (or FOMO) on something if we do not have the latest device with the best network in the nation...at all times blah blah blah.  Notice the youngest child has to be strapped to Daddy because Pops needs his hands free to use his smartphone.  

I don't think Verizon is doing anyone any favors by featuring their products in use on a night like Halloween.  How many kids will get hit by cars or injured by starring down at their devices while navigating driveways, sidewalks, streets, and traffic (in the dark)?  I think everyone could leave the devices at home and let the night be its own experience and entertainment, but maybe I am showing my age.  Really, I am not advocating you do or don't do anything, but rather pointing out how technology and service providers are inserting themselves and their products into every facet of your life.

I am a believer in technology and work with it professionally to some extent each day (hey, I'm the Connected Librarian!), but there is a time and place for it. I just had a face to face conversation with an undergraduate student in my office.  The student drops by my office once a week or so to talk cars.  During our conversation today he checked his phone at least five times during our conversation.  I notice this device distraction anytime I have a conversation with a student outside of class.  A few years ago, if I checked my watch in front of somebody I was having a conversation with it would be considered rude.

Of course, it is not just young people distracted by tech, there are plenty of my 30-40 year-old peers and colleagues who obsessively check their phones for updates, texts, or whatever. I find it annoying if not completely rude to limit your attention to a conversation or a person/people right in front of you to turn to social media updates or whatever is happening on the internet.

Those digital conversations will be preserved and available for you to consume at any time unlike the conversation that is happening live and unrecorded in front of you.  I suspect that the same lack of attention is occurring in the American family so much so that we now have individuals (primarily kids and young adults) burying themselves in the digital world because they don't have the social tools to fare in the analog world they live in.  Those in higher education see some freshmen (or first year) students come to college each year to almost immediately disengage from campus and escape into a RPG (Role Playing Game). They lasts for one semester before Mom and Dad come to take them back home or they survive on academic probation for another semester before being sent home for good.  National Public Radio (NPR) had a recent story about a refuge and recovery center for youth addicted to technology which can be read and heard here.

So, now that we are in the latter lifespan of handheld tech devices (mobile phones, tablets, iPods), what do you think will happen to the level of engagement once we enter the world of wearable tech devices like Google Glass and Smartwatches?

What say you?  Do mobile devices belong in every facet of our lives or are there situations, places, and times they do not belong?  Is there some protocol for the use of mobile devices in society today?  Should there be more?  How do you think we will interface with the analog world around us once plugged-in to information and media with our hands free?

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University.

Monday, October 21, 2013

When the Lights Go Out -Undergraduate Reactions to Internet Outage

This month the Internet went dark on one small liberal arts school for less than 24 hours, in fact it went down for less than 12.  You would think by student's reactions that things were really getting bad out there, you know; anarchy, zombies, and killer viruses. However, the power was still on, water ran through the pipes, and the sun set that evening and rose the next day- the internet came back to life several hours later.

Nevertheless, the students muttered and looked at their phones quizzically- trying to circumvent the stoppage in service and send off that important text or email.  Some found others who had Sprint- rumored to still work, while other networks were dark.


I happened to be on the reference desk in the library for the first 3-4 hours of the outage.  What happened was that a truck (or large vehicle) hit a main artery of Time Warner or whichever carrier that ultimately took down the entire town, wireless networks like AT&T, and the entire campus Internet and TV cable for a period of 7 to 8 hours.

The interruption did have an affect on my day as well, as I received an abnormal amount of reference questions from students who were probably in the mood to do homework (that did not involve the internet, plainly there was little else to do with the interwebs dark for undergrads).  E-mail still worked however, like some kind of cruel joke- the meat of the digital world was gone, but those brussel sprouts were still there in the form of E-mail.

Of course, we do not maintain a card catalog anymore, as I had to explain to an adjunct professor who was planning to show something to his class from his laptop and now was searching frantically for a DVD (he would also settle for a VHS tape).  Our DVD collection is in a small closet and is small enough to browse.

Library of Congress ranges and guides at the end of stacks serve as roadsigns and can give you a lot of hints of where books are located, but it is nothing like an even deprecated OPAC like Voyager's Integrated Library System (that was now remotely hosted across the nation and offline and totally inaccessible).  There is a Library of Congress finding aid in print somewhere, but fortunately our library is pretty small and easy to browse once in the right neighborhood.

I managed to get through my reference shift alright, but not feeling as though I was as prepared as I ought to be.  I even had a student ask for recommendations of authors for pleasure reading, which happens rarely.  Normally I would have a list ready in my head, but the outage seemed to wipe out my superhighways as well.  In fact, a couple of times during the shift, students or I would murmur, "I usually just Google those types of things, but um...you know, it's down etc."  We spoke of the Internet like it left our world like a friend who prematurely died and a huge void was there- but not.

After a faculty meeting I walked with a Communications professor back towards our offices and we talked about the outage and how it affected the students so much for those few hours.  She said she had face to face conversations during the outage and was fine, if not refreshed. I said I had read a book between reference questions, a book on dog breeds in fact- that predicted that French Bulldogs would not be popular in the future (copyright in the 80's).

The authors wrote something about how the French Bulldog was too specialized for the masses and only for a narrow profile of dog fanciers. I thought about how wrong they were in those pre-Internet days.  No they were right then, but had no idea that the few French Bulldog fanciers would then be able to connect, share, gain followers, and then "Likes" on Facebook via the Internet.  Then maybe an artist or actor- no a reality star would want a dog that nobody had, but then everyone would have one.  The Internet literally has made everything not only popular but available and accessible.  The long tail of the Internet would satisfy all and it would get longer and longer.

We fared better than our students, clearly.  Of course, we both have lived lives without the Internet, and while it is not easy living without it, we can revert back fairly easily.  Some of us even try to get away from the internet and devices on our off time.  As far as the Millennials and those too young to remember  life without a digital information go, it is as if a part of their life is gone when the lights go out.

I say we have an Internet free day every month...OK, I take it back... every year. 

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University.