August 8, 2013

Cornell Professor Sports ‘Google Glass’ Around Ithaca After Winning Twitter Contest

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When Prof. Cynthia Johnston Turner, music, walked into the GreenStar Cooperative Market in Ithaca, she did not expect anyone to notice her new pair of glasses. However, a routine trip to the grocery store took an interesting turn when a local resident began quizzing her on the functionality of her latest accessory. This man was the only person who realized that Turner was actually sporting one of Google’s latest products: a high-tech, wearable computer, Google Glass, that costs five times as much as the average smartphone.

Turner was able to join an elite group of 8,000 “Google Glass Explorers” after winning a Twitter contest sponsored by Google. The contest required users to tweet #ifihadglass and express — in 140 characters or less — what they would do with the cutting-edge technology.

She tweeted:  “#ifihadglass i’d use it in the music studio, rehearsal room, and classroom to record conducting students and give immediate feedback!”

For Turner, this tweet became her golden ticket into the new Google Glass offices in Chelsea; however, Turner said that victory came with a hefty price tag. While Google Glass Explorers were invited to use the technology, they were required to pay $1,500 to take it home. This price is expected to drop when a consumer edition enters the market at the end of 2013.

This upcoming school year, Turner will be using Glass to research the potential of wearable technology in education, conducting and composing. With the assistance of Barbara Friedman ’81, assistant director of educational outreach for academic technologies and Tyler Ehrlich ’14, who will be building new apps for Glass, she hopes to change the way that audiences experience music.

The research team will focus on three main goals: building a metronome app in Glass to teach students conducting; embedding a virtual score for musicians, which would eliminate the task of manually turning sheet music; and creating a live video-feed from the conductor’s perspective to enhance an audience’s experience, Ehrlich said.

Friedman and Turner said that their work with Google Glass has faced criticism from colleagues in the music world.

“There is already backlash from some colleagues of mine in the conducting world who basically say that music is for the ears — not for the eyes. To which I say: ‘Why not the eyes? Why not all the senses?’” Turner said.

Although professionals in the conducting industry are apprehensive, Turner’s colleagues at Cornell are more optimistic about her research.

Prof. Geri Gay, computer and information science and director of the Interactive Design Lab, said she thinks Google Glass and other wearable technologies are the future of higher education and specialized careers that require people to use their hands, such as conducting. Gay said that other departments in Cornell that are “more hands on,” such as those in the College of Architecture, Art and Planning or the School of Hotel Administration, should also consider incorporating Google Glass into their instruction.

Gay said she supports Turner’s research, but she also urged consumers to consider the potential privacy issues that may arise if Glass becomes popular. Gay referenced concerns that have been raised about the potential to take photos and videos covertly with Google Glass.

“You have to look at the pros and cons. What are we gaining and what are we losing?” Gay said. “We need to think about both and be optimistic but also aware of what is going on. … Just because [technology is] there doesn’t mean that we always have to use it.”

Turner disagreed, saying it is “very obvious when someone is taking a video or picture.” She said that the creation of “niche specific apps,” regardless of privacy concerns, will “make or break” Google Glass’s commercial success. In her opinion, the eyewear does not make everyday activities simpler. It provides the largest benefit to those who can use Glass as a camera overlay during hands-on activities, she said.

“At the end of the day,” Turner said, “I’m only one of a few people who want to wear a phone on their face.”

To see more of their experience, follow Turner, Friedman and Ehrlich as they document their Glass experience on Turner’s blog.

Original Author: Alexa Davis

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