Katrina Maksimuk Katrina Maksimuk of Ventura is one of 2,000 people countrywide who is participating in the early test program of Google glasses.

Plugged In

Google Glass: a new way to look at things

By Bridgeman Carney 11/14/2013

They are in the news and have already worked their way into late-night comedy monologues: Google Glass. This month we’ll look at how the latest in technology appliances may affect our daily routines and lives.

First let us see what these glasses are. For the person walking by someone wearing Google Glass, they appear pretty much like regular glasses.  They are what one could call “uber-contemporary” design, a bit like those worn by snow skiers. They have clear (nonprescription) lenses with somewhat taller arms that rest above the ear much like any other glasses. On closer look, however, you can see the differences. There is a small block of glass in front of and at the upper part of the left lens. It is through this block of glass that images are visible to the Google glass wearer and to a digital camera that can capture short videos of whatever the wearer is looking at. Not so visible is that the glasses also have an audio system that transmits to the wearer through a contact piece at the end of the arms of the glasses.

Google Glass communicates to the Internet through local wireless connections such as Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth. So when you have your glasses on, you are connected. You can see Internet information through the glass block on the front of the lens, take videos and photos with a built-in camera and hear information from websites. In short, you are connected.

In preparation for this article, the VCReporter spoke to Katrina Maksimuk here in Ventura County, who has been fortunate enough to be selected to be one of only 2,000 U.S. participants in Google’s early test program for Google Glass. Her experience has been very positive.

Maksimuk engages the Google glasses function by a simple tilt up of her head, and then saying a verbal command. The verbal commands available start with the words “OK, Glass.” For example she may say “OK, Glass, email,” which will then list her emails on the visual display, which is that little glass block on the upper corner of the left lens. She can then give additional commands to scroll up and down through the list of emails. If she wants to read an email, she can do so or she can give the command “read email” and her email will be read with the built-in transmitter. Unlike ear plugs for sound, Google Glass uses a technique of transmitting sound via vibration through the contact of the phone’s arm to the bone that surrounds the ears. In this way, Google Glass can easily be slid on and off and also not interfere with outside sounds such as someone talking to you or other alert sounds such as car horns, PA system announcements and so on.

The vocal commands have about a 99 percent accurate recognition rate, according to Maksimuk’s own experience. She had her grandmother, who recently suffered a mild stroke, try on the glasses, and found that she could successfully give commands to the glasses allowing her to open emails and have the glasses read them to her.  These simple tasks are sometimes physically challenging during her rehabilitation.

In Maksimuk’s professional life as a marketing consultant, she has found a higher productivity in doing her work and wearing the glasses. She is currently working on opening the Connect Ventura facility where she is the Connect Ventura community curator. The flurry of activities to get the Connect Ventura facility up and running requires constant interaction with email and Internet. The use of her Google Glass are such that she cannot imagine how she could maintain her productivity without them.

“Without the [Google] glasses, I would have been behind or late in my responses to contractors working on and/or those interested in participation in this new facility,” Maksimuk said. “It is a form of hands-free but with the added touch of seeing things in front of me with Google heads-up display.”

Google Glass are yet another form of integration of our personal self closer to immediate communications of phone and Internet, which is becoming an essential part of our daily lives. There are other new form factors in many development labs that will take us even further. These include phones that are as thin as a business card and some that can be wrapped to our wrists or arms. Keep watching, there is much more to come. 

Plugged In is a monthly column focused on new technology in and around Ventura County and it will be featured the second week of every month. Plugged In authors Bridge Carney and Karl Geiger are chairman  and past chairman, respectively, for the Ventura Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE], the world’s largest professional organization, with more than 800 local members in Ventura County. Find them at www.ieee-bv.org.


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