Students interested in experiencing augmented reality will soon have more than just science fiction novels to turn to at the Yale University Library.
Faculty and students can now propose spring-term projects involving Google Glass, a pair of glasses that displays virtual information in a hands free format. The glasses allows the user to record what they see as videos and overlay information in their line of sight, such as maps and data. Three Google Glass devices are currently owned by a partnership consisting of the Yale University Library, the Student Technology Collaborative and the Instructional Technology Group. Based on the partnership’s experience with participants in spring and summer projects involving the device, they decided to focus on projects rather than general circulation.
“We want to let the Yale community figure out what Glass is good for,” Associate Director for Resource Sharing and Reserves Tom Bruno said. “We’re trying to foster a space where faculty and students can experiment with this kind of new technology.”
When it was announced in March that the group would accept project proposals for the spring and summer, only one Google Glass was available. Shortly afterward, Bruno said Daniel Kent SOM ’15 and Technology Manager at the Yale Center for Language Study Adam Hummel passed their invitations to enroll in Google Glass’ beta-testing program — which had yet to open to the public — to the partnership, so two additional devices could be purchased for $1,500 each.
Bruno said for the time being, general circulation may overextend the group’s ability to support the devices. He added, however, that it could be a possibility in the future, especially if Google Glass becomes more mainstream.
The devices are currently available for short-term, approximately two-week projects, or long-term projects that take a semester or longer.
Students and faculty members who explored the device this past spring and summer agreed that Google Glass offered exciting possibilities, but could be more user-friendly. Mainak Ghosh ’14, who used Google Glass to document Commencement 2014, said he enjoyed the novelty of first-person navigation and video-recording applications.
The device was also used in projects pertaining to more specific fields. Staff members of the Yale Sustainable Food Project and undergraduate volunteers, for instance, used Google Glass to better document the experience of working on the Yale Farm.
“A lot of experiences and observations students might have at the Yale Farm can’t be adequately recorded by conventional means because the hands are engaged,” Director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project Mark Bomford said.
Bomford said added that he is interested in further exploring Google Glass, especially looking into how it may be used in logbook-style record-keeping to track long-term trends in pest activity and crop yield.
While student and faculty projects have been the focus, Bruno said library applications, such as those that translate foreign text in the user’s field of vision, may eventually be explored.
Danielle Brecher, an instructional design and technology librarian for the Claremont University Consortium, said her library system also focuses more on student projects involving Google Glass rather than library applications. At the Claremont Consortium, she said, faculty and students have proposed using the device to document the writing process in the humanities and laboratory work in the sciences.
Bruno also said the device still has room to improve.
“People put these on and expect to be in ‘The Matrix,’” Bruno said. “But there are certain limitations — the total amount of applications is rather small. It’s a prototype.”
The partnership has had to replace all three devices, often due to malfunctions during software updates. These replacements, however, have been free of charge given that the device is still in beta testing.
One of the main problems with the current model of Google Glass is its battery life. Critic and Director of Digital Technology at the School of Art Johannes DeYoung, who co-taught “Performance and the Moving Image,” said the course experimented with Google Glass. He added that due the device’s limitations, however, there was no time to incorporate the device in the class’s film productions.
Sarah Gross ’17, who worked on the Yale Farm project, said the limited number of applications made the device seem somewhat inflexible. She added that using the device sometimes made her feel self-conscious.
Likewise, Abi Olvera ’14, who used to the device to document her Commencement experience, said it sometimes made her friends uncomfortable because they would never know for certain when she was recording.
Though the ability to share first-person experiences is one of Google Glass most notable features, the viewing experience is not always a pleasant one. Bomford said abrupt movements resulted in a footage that was at times “nauseating” to watch.
Despite these limitations, some still believed that Google Glass would impact future trends in technology.
Kent said he thinks Google Glass is “revolutionary.” The device, he said, is unique because it goes beyond the typical consumer experience, as its users are involved in assessing its limitations and furthering its progress.
Bomford, however, said he is hesitant to give the device so much praise.
“[Google Glass] is exciting, but it is probably more evolutionary rather than revolutionary technology — it’s not quite there yet.”