Google Glass gets a spin in Alaska’s extreme weather

By November 29, 2013Science & Tech

Jennifer Moss is an instructional designer for the University of Alaska Fairbanks eLearning and Distance Education program.

She’s also a Google Glass Explorer. That means when she’s out biking, skiing or running, she’s often wearing a pair of technology-infused glasses. They don’t have lenses, but they do have a small display and a camera that sits just above her right eye. She’s able to search the internet, send texts and Tweets, and share photos and video using voice commands or swipe gestures. She can share live video in a Google Hangout or see a map interface that gives her directions.



Glass was introduced to the world in the spring of 2012 and has since been heralded as one of the next big things in the world of wearable technology. Google’s Sergey Brin said in a TED Talk earlier this year that the idea for Glass was born from wanting deliver an experience that doesn’t isolate people the way staring down at a screen does.

Moss says that wearing glass is a lot like having a smart phone strapped to your head.

Google invited people to join a limited pool of users to test the devices by asking them to  tweet what they would do if they had the Glass.

Moss saw the invitation and responded with an Alaskan take on using the technology.

Twitter exchange between Jennifer Moss and Google

Google asked people to tweet what they would do with glass and chose testers from tweets using #IfIHadGlass.

“So I sent out a tweet back to Google saying that I would use Google Glass for recording the aurora at 40 below from my backyard in Fairbanks because I thought that would be a good test of the device for dark conditions and extreme cold situations. So that was good enough to get me an invitation to purchase.”

Explorers had to shell out $1,500 for the glasses and fly to Google’s headquarters to pick them up. This testing period is the company’s approach to refining the device before making it available for wide distribution.

Given the nature of Moss’s job, her employer was on board with buying the glasses. Since then, Moss has been testing out the capabilities of the device for education and research.

“I’m also taking them into classrooms and introducing them to students and getting the conversation going about what can you do with wearable technology such as this in the classroom situation. And introducing them to faculty and researchers at the University who might be interested in taking them out into the field and using them for field experiments and recording.”

Later this year, Moss will also be testing a Google Glass competitor called Meta, which bills itself as a personal holographic interface.

“We are very interested in innovative–not just techniques for instruction–but also the new technology that coming along and how that technology is integrated into education. Is it viable? So we’re always testing the boundaries to see what will be viable for good pedagogy in teaching.”

Using the technology has a little bit of a learning curve and sometimes results aren’t what you were looking for. During a demonstration asking it to search “movies in Juneau” Glass returned the movie Juno. But Moss says using Glass has been a fairly intuitive experience and she could see the use of the device becoming more widespread once the it’s for sale.

“I think that it’s very good for educators and the business community to really take a look at this new wearable technology. It’s about to become and is rapidly becoming the next largest industry. It’s going to become very big, so learning how to use it, and learning how it might be useful for you in your profession will be important.”

Moss says that sometimes Alaska’s small population and limited bandwidth can be a bit of a barrier to keeping up with new technologies, but there are still ways for us to stay in the loop.

“We do have the wonderful world of the internet and we can learn about all kinds of things as they come out and be on that cutting edge to some extent.”

But until Glass hits the stores sometime next year, we’ll have to stick to searching for information the old fashioned way, looking down at a screen in our hands.


Here’s Google’s video introducing Glass:

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