Monday, May 12, 2014

Wearable Technology at University of Canberra

Greetings from the University of Canberra Inspire Centre where the first "Canberra Glass Meetup" is being held. There is a series of international speakers on the use of the prototype "Google Glass" head mounted display.
Speakers include Professor Mark Billinghurst, University of Canterbury, NZ and Rob Manson, CEO,

My First Impressions of Wearing Google Glass at a demonstration in Canberra in March were not good. I found the physical design of the unit bulky. While it worked well I could not see it having much use in education, apart for vocational education where the student is carrying out a physical task needing both hands.
This event did not start well for me, with my being asked to sign a complex paper form to agree to be videoed.  This asked if I agreed to have my "testimonial" used for promoting the University of Canberra. I ticked "no", but then in the introduction of the event was told that I had agreed to being recorded continuously for the whole event, by those wearing Google Glass, apart from in the bathroom. Clearly I did not agree to this. One reason for holding such events, with enthusiasts, is to work out the bugs, not just in the hardware and software, but in the legal and social issues as well, such as what expectation of privacy I have. These are difficult issues with no clear answers.

The first speaker for the event was Cecilia Abadie. Unfortunately this was via a low quality video link from somewhere. The sound was excellent, but I wondered why I had to drive across the city on a cold night to what someone on a computer screen, when I could have done this at home.

Cecilia related the experience of using the Google Glass device for an extended period.  She touched on the problem of friends worrying if they were being recorded. She also related how she was issued with a traffic violation for wearing Google Glass while driving. She argued the device was turned off. It could be argued that the device is less distracting than a conventional display in the car dashboard.

Brandon King then talked (also on video conference apparently from somewhere in the USA). The quality of the video was better this time, but I did wonder how much Brandon or Cecilia added to the evening, as they did not say much about what they did with the head-up display. I started to wonder why I was stilling here listening to what is essentially an extended advertisement for a Google product. I don't mind attending product demonstrations (I attended one last week), but prefer one with a trained salesperson and for it to be clear they are selling on behalf of a particular company.

Libby Chang explained Google Glass allowed her to "be in the moment", as if hiking she saw a flower, she did not have to fumble around to find her camera. I found this an odd observation. If hiking and I saw a flower and wanted to " be in the moment" I would stop and look at the flower: reaching for a device would ruin the moment. When using a device, such as the keyboard I am typing on, I find this does separate me from the world around me.

Libby argued that wearables can be personalised. She almost  was apologising for that she did not wear them all the time and argued they could be taken off. However, I have already tonight experienced forced use of Glass as a member of the audience. It is not a great leap of imagination to a situation where employees or students would be required to use a wearable device, as a condition of their employment or studies.

When then had "David Lee" (who I could not find on the program), talk about how to personalise Google Glass custom finishes. He gave the example of asking Goolge Glass how much air to put in a tire, while filling the tire. This could be an extremely dangerous exercise. A car tire could cause serious injury if under or overinflated. This could easily happen by misinterpreting the information provided, for example the unit of measure used for pressure. At the end David asked if Glass was a fashion problem: I think it is and a much smaller device is needed.

So far this Glass event is very much a glass half full experience for me. ;-)

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