Annenberg forum debates the uses of Google Glass

Robert Hernandez, Marcia Dawkins and several other USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism faculty and graduate students held “Storytelling with Google Glass,” a forum about the impact and the possible uses of Google Glass in the field of journalism. The event was the first in a weekly journalism and public relations forum series, to be held every Tuesday at noon.

Faculty members and forum attendees tried out the new product and discussed its implications for journalism. Google Glass is a wearable computer with a prism that projects images directly in front of the eyes. Currently, Google Glass is very limited, with only a small amount of apps available, though Google has released the code for third-party developers to work on.

“The functionality of Google Glass will be much [greater] once native applications for it are developed,” said David Carr, a sophomore majoring in computer science and a “Google Glass explorer.”

According to the forum, Google Glass needs to be tethered to an Android smartphone in order to fulfill most of its functions, including news streaming and access to social media sites.

“The biggest downside is definitely the lack of internet connectivity,” said Alex Leavitt, a doctoral candidate in communications at Annenberg who owns a pair of Google Glass.

The main focus of the forum was the product’s use in journalism. Hernandez and Leavitt presented a few examples of how they used Google Glass to take point-of-view videos.

Hernandez said he believes that the main impact the glasses will have is not in content creation, but rather content delivery, by changing the way users of Glass receive news and other publications.

“It’s another tool in our toolbox, and it’s definitely something,” Hernandez said.

The Glass explorers demonstrated that taking pictures requires only a few hand swipes across the touch-sensitive panel on the left side of the device , or a voice command, making it much faster and simpler than using a phone camera. Glass explorers also spoke about how, for them, Google Glass will be a catalyst for discussions of privacy because using the glasses makes the wearer acutely aware of privacy violations.

“I think Google Glass is a cool idea, but it would sometimes be pretty intrusive on privacy,” said John Atyeo, a freshman majoring in chemical engineering.

The forum leaders also touched on how Google Glass affected the social aspects of their lives.

“I had to force myself to wear it,” Hernandez said. Sometimes, he said his friends cracked jokes at his expense, or he would draw unnecessary attention in public. Other Google Glass wearers mentioned that they had to deal with strangers being scared or put off after seeing that they were wearing Google Glass.

Despite a small amount of awkwardness, the general vibe of the forum was that this was something on the cutting edge.

“Google Glass kind of symbolizes our entrance into an era in which our lives become more wholly dependent on technology,” said Sarah Joh, an undecided freshman.


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3 replies
  1. USC parent
    USC parent says:

    Thanks David,

    As you say, the jury is still out, but the primary witnesses are not speaking. I do not know your background or relationship, if any, to Google. I have not read of Google or any other wireless device company for that matter, assuming responsibility to devote their considerable economic and professional staff resources to investigating the potential damaging health effects of their devices and informing their consumers to allow each consumer an informed choice.

    There has been a very rapid increase in EMF emitting devices we are exposed to on a daily basis (cellphones, laptops, tablets, SMART gas/electric/water meters, “wireless campuses”. As you note, there will be more and more since wireless technology seems to be the current “cash cow” of Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

    The cumulative and lifetime exposure of the ever increasing EMF emitters has not been addressed. It seems especially critical for the current college age population that the potential carcinogenic or other health effects are investigated since this age cohort has grown up with cell phones and the array of other expanding EMF emitting devices. Seems this topic is an excellent basis for many engineering and medical student research projects and faculty grants for the good of all.

    I do think the tech industry needs to be more forthright with consumers and take an active role protecting the health of its consumers or risk appearing in a negative light as Big Tobacco did in the 1960’s downplaying, or worse, smoking as a risk factor for cancer and heart disease.

  2. USC parent
    USC parent says:

    I encourage all to keep tabs of the research suggesting carcinogenic effects of EMF emitting devices. The World Health Organization reclassified cell phones to a Class II carcinogen in 2011. This was due to studies showing a dose dependent relationship between cell phone use and gliomas (a type of cancerous brain tumor). Those with the highest cell phone use had a 40% greater chance of developing a glioma.

    Google Glass sits right next to the frontal lobes. It is unfortunate and of concern that Google does not warn the public of potential dangers from Google glass use. Wireless tech has become a primary product of tech companies. The potential combined health effects of laptops, cell phones, tablets, SMART Meters and living/working on a wireless campus simply are not known, seemingly especially when wearing Google Glass is added to the mix.

    • David Carr
      David Carr says:

      The SAR levels measured on Glass are at or below those of mainstream smartphones, and Glass itself only contains low power WiFi and Bluetooth radios, not the higher wattage UTMS/GSM/CMDA/LTE radios found in phones. But you’re right, the close proximity of Glass to the wearer makes this a more important topic.

      The years ahead of us are going to bring a new wave of connected devices and sensors that are on us and around us, bringing a new age of contextual mobile computing. But I think it’s important that you bring this up as the jury is indeed still out.

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