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 The Explorer: Alex Blaszczuk

 

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For Alex Blaszczuk, Google Glass is a liberating device. Severely paralysed by a car accident in October 2011, Blaszczuk suffered a complete cervical fracture. She was left without the use of her lower limbs and with severely restricted movement in her upper body. Glass has given her a way back into the world.

“People are often concerned about approaching someone with a disability, but not about approaching someone with Glass!” she says.”It’s an easy way to make friends. It has made me more integrated into my social space and allowed me to participate more fully in my community.” Without it I wouldn’t be able to function creatively and expressively as I do now”.

Despite the daily obstacles, Blaszczuk is a remarkably optimistic person. Determined to succeed in a law career and re-assert the independence taken from her by her accident. While some see Glass as a device that doesn’t do anything useful, for Blaszczuk, it already is.

 

 

“I love taking photos and video!” she says.“Before having Glass, I wasn’t able to do this because of my disability. Now, using the voice command, or even winking, I’m able to express myself in this creative way.

I recorded a camping trip with my friends and recorded my grandparents while we were reminiscing about their childhood”.

Despite her enthusiasm, Blaszczuk thinks the device can be improved.

“Using Glass for longer messages or dictation isn’t possible for me, it works better on my smartphone. I think a more robust voice to text technology and the ability to use voice commands would be helpful”.

Blaszczuk has faced a daunting series of challenges since October 2011 and acknowledges that her new life and body are sometimes difficult to accept. She needs assistance with many aspects of daily living and struggles with the demands she is forced to place upon her loved ones.

A camping trip with friends, gave hera new opportunity to re-assert her indepedence. Prior to the trip, she hadn’t been apart from a caregiver for more than a few short hours.

The trip was filmed by Google as part of its ‘Explorer Program’. and showed Blaszczuk delighting in her ability to to use Glass to take a lead role as the groups navigator.

Regaining control over such small details can be incredibly important for those who have lost them and Blaszczuk  credits the part Glass has played a part in giving her back a sense of freedom.

“Glass has allowed me to be an Explorer, in a beta-tester program trying out a cool new gadget but also, more importantly, to view myself as an adventurer and explorer in my own life, something which disability sometimes hinders. It’s a very important!”

To find out more about Alex Blaszczuk and to follow her adventures with Glass, visit her website.

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The Surgeon: Rafael Grossman

 

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Doctor Rafael Grossman is a trauma surgeon. His daily reality is one that often involves making critical, life saving medical interventions, in rapidly escalating high-stress emergency situations.

Many patients arrive at trauma centres suffering from multiple injuries.So it is vital that they are treated quickly. Trauma surgeons resuscitate and stabilise and any life-saving advantage they can gain is critical. In that capacity, Grossman already sees a very significant role for devices like Goggle Glass.

Grossman was the first surgeon to use Glass in an operating theatre. On 20th July 2013, he performed a Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy (PEG), which was live-streamed between his Glass and a Google account.

He was able to send images of his patient’s abdomen to an iPad over an internet connection. The iPad was in the same room, thus ensuring that no personal patient data was shared, but the principle, of using Glass as a surgical aid during an operation had been established.

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Since then I’ve become sort of an evangal­ist of the poten­tial use of Glass in health­care and using it in dif­fer­ent clin­ical scen­arios,” Gross­man says.

“So far, I’ve been well impressed. We’ve got to keep in mind that Glass is a first-edition device and has some limitations, but I think it has a lot of potential to transform the way we do healthcare and the way we teach medicine”.

Google currently routes all Glass data through its own servers, so Grossman uses high-tech mannequins, to comply with Federal data-privacy laws. By testing different clinical scenarios he has been steadily working to demonstrate uses for tools like Glass in healthcare practice, surgery and medical education.

He’s keen to see progress that will allow surgeons to comply with Federal law and is pleased that recent developments are moving the legal issues forward.

“In the last few weeks, there are companies that have developed platforms that allow you to do a video/audio live-connection, bypassing Google’s servers and ensuring that the information is kept private” he says. “I think that very soon, we’re going to be seeing a lot of implementation of Glass in different clinical scenarios”.

 

 

Grossman describes himself as a “healthcare futurist”. He’s optimistic that headmounted displays will soon aid surgeons in operating theatre’s and during the consultation stage.

When it first arrived, many medical proffessionas assumed that Glass would act as a barrier between a doctor and patient; but having used the device extensively, Grossman believes the opposite is true.

“If you look at the way we provide medicine these days, you’ll see electronic medical records commonly used. You sit in front of the patient, shake hands and then turn away to a computer screen to put data into the computer. You’re not even looking at the patient. Having a computer that you can wear on your face, that you can input data into and can get data from, without even having to look away from the patient, will only augment the connection between you and the patient” says Grossman.

He’s excited by the future promise of wearables and sees the integration of Glass with electronic patient medical records as only one of many possible enhancements that can improve a doctors toolkit. He is also exploring Glass as a video-conferencing, tele-medicine and tele-mentoring tool and sees benefits in using it to link medical professionals and students.

The most compelling moment in our conversation comes when Grossman describes how Glass can become a crucial tool to allow surgeons and specialists to intervene earlier in critical healthcare scenarios.

“You can have a group of emergency medical providers, in an ambulance, connect with the ER from the scene using Glass. Showing the people in the ER room what they see, from their perspective. Connecting and live-streaming with the emergency department, this is something that will really, save lives.”

The full interview with Rafael Grossman is here. Visit his website or subscribe to his twitter account here.

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The Early Adopter: Peter Krajnak

 

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PPeter Krajnak is the UK Sales Director for Sli.do; a start-up founded in 2012 by Peter Komornik and Rastislav Molnar.

Both a web-based software platform and an accompanying app, Sli.do allows audiences at live events to actively engage with participants on the stage. The software allows the audience to post questions via live tweets and to take part in interactive polls. The results update as participants vote on them and the process is visible to everyone.

This feedback loop has some interesting implications. Possible uses in education, staff training, and interactive discussions and panel environments spring to mind, It’s easy to imagine a platform like Sli.do being used at any large event. Being able to crowd-source discussion points and pose the most important questions hasobvious and immediate benefit.

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Krajnak has been a Glass Explorer for 3 months since Sli.do purchased the device to develop and test a Glass-enabled version of their app. He admits to having been surprised at the quality of the device.

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He wears it mostly at conference and networking events and says, that because of certain public perceptions around its capabilities, he isn’t yet comfortable wearing it in public.

“The biggest issue with Glass is this privacy issue. Some people think you’re recording them. They’re kind of scared of you. This is the main issue that Google should somehow resolve. Otherwise, I don’t think it’s going to be a huge device”.

Krajnak lives in London, where he says that his interactions with people while wearing Glass have only been positive.

“There’s a famous book by Dale Carnegie, called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People” he says, “I joke that all you really need to do is buy Glass, because it’s a very good conversation opener”.

As the Sales Director for a fledgling technology start-up, Krajnak’s a natural early adopter. He isn’t phased by the technological novelty of Glass.”For me, it’s just another device. One that can be improved. They need to get more developers on board – allow you to download apps straight from the Internet. I’m not sure if it’s a device for everyone right now, but I believe that in certain industries it might be very helpful.”

Sli.do’s Glass app is due to launch soon and  Krajnak, and the Sli.do team are very pleased with what they’ve seen so far from the device.

Nevertheless, Krajnak doesn’t feel Glass is ready for widespread everyday use. “It’s like a camera. You don’t take it with you every day, but when you need it, it’s there, and it’s pretty cool. I’m sure it’s going to get a lot better.”

To find out more about Sli.do visit their website.

 

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 The Connector  : Chris Dancy

 

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Chris Dancy is the very definition of a modern connected human being. For him, being plugged in to the technological cutting-edge is day-to-day normal.

Dancy wears a host of body-tracking devices and environmental sensors. In doing so, he measures and quantifies aspects of his daily existence with a precision that few can imagine. Such a connected lifestyle led Wired Magazine, to label him as’The World’s Most Connected Human’.

A pioneer of self-tracking, Dancy describes himself as a ‘data exhaust cartographer’. He tracks his heart-rate, blood-pressure, posture, location, and mood, along with his calorie-intake, sleep patterns, daily activity and time. For him, Glass is simply another tool; one that allows him to plug into what he calls, the ‘inner-net’. A smartphrase to decrive the coming convergence of personal and contextual information.

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“I use it for about an hour each day, mostly to access alerts and view photos” he says. He has it connected to a proxy server system called Zappier, which allows him to receive important alert messages. “Data-assisted living lets me focus on the people in my life” he says. Before trying Glass, he didn’t know what to expect but says he’s been happy with what he’s seen so far and would buy the device again.

“I enjoy showing them to people and explaining how they work. I also enjoy debating “surveillance” with people who have never looked at how much they are already surveilled.

Beware of anyone talking about ‘public’ behaviour as good or bad. We don’t have a choice when it comes to being attached”.

He doesn’t agree with the criticism that Glass is an inherently anti-social technology, pointing out that a group of commuters travelling to work in the 1950’s; heads buried in the days newspapers, were as equally disengaged from each other as any modern collection of travellers.

“Were newspapers anti-social? When making claims of ‘anti-social’ behavior, we class what is ‘social’ behaviour,” he says.

Despite his interest in the device, Dancy, describes himself as having “no tech-fetish and no tech pathology”. He feels the product has a long way to go. “I’d like to see it measure blood-flow; have skin temperature sensors in the side-piece and measure temperature, humidity and ambient light and noise,” he says.

His best experiences with Glass have come while travelling and shopping. “Last Christmas I used Glass and a geo-trigger to tell me to stop shopping when I was at the mall and I had spent more than X dollars. I’ve also used it to translate signs when I’m travelling to countries that don’t speak English”.

While he has high hopes that the device will evolve to allow him to connect all of the information he currently tracks, he decries the media silliness surrounding it. “Everyone’s talking about the devices, but it’s the information that is going to make us better people” he says.

He may be the word’s most connected human but for Chris Dancy, Google Glass is simply another way to reach his inner-net.

The full interview with Chris is here. To find out more, visit his website, or subscribe to his podcast.

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The Developer: Adriana Vecchioli

 

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Adriana Vecchioli, has only been a Glass Explorer since February 2014 but, in that comparatively short time, she’s created an innovative application called ‘FindIt.’

Vecchio’s app allows users to find their lost objects using the voice interface and camera in Glass. Activating the app, requires the user to speak by saying, “Ok Glass, remember this”. Touching the tactile part of the frame,prompts it to take a picture. GPS co-ordinates are recorded, and the object is named and saved. The search is voice-activated, so both the GPS location data and photo are shown to the user.

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Vecchioli is an unabashed Glass enthusiast. She says she wore it constantly when it first arrived, even taking it on dates and to parties. “I was excited, like a kid in a candy store, using it anytime I could, even when it was not appropriate” she says. “I was streaming videos, whereas the screen is tiny, and it would dry out the battery. I used it a lot for entertainment”.

She’s had some negative reactions while wearing it. Mostly when people who thought they were being filmed, but she points out that disruptive technologies often face early criticism.

“If you listen to archives from 1981, you’d be surprised to find out that Sony’s Walkman was not welcomed by all. Even more striking, the criticisms towards the Walkman are very similar to those against Glass. Obnoxious, stupid, smug, you’re putting blinders on’ etc”.

Since starting to develop for Glass, her usage has evolved. “Now I see it as a work tool” she says. “Of course, Glass is necessary to test the app, but it’s also really efficient for email and messages. I don’t type them any longer, I dictate them to the device, exactly how I would normally speak. I say ‘send’ and boom!”

Vecchioli says she developed Findit because she kept losing things. “The day I tried Glass for the first time, I imagined a big search bar floating right in front of me, that I could use to find physical objects, not only digital files. It would say ‘the remote control you’re looking for is located under the couch. Its position has not changed since May 2013, when your friends came over to watch Game of Thrones”.

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She admits that developing for such a new product has been challenging. An entirely different experience to anything she has created before.

“Instead of having a dashboard filled with apps that you open, you just call them with a voice trigger. Therefore the workflow is very different, but you get these things quickly when you start using Glass. Beta-testing is a pain if your app is native, because there’s no way yet to push an update straight to Glass, people have to manually side-load the updated APK”.

She says that the single most annoying thing about the product is “the extra attention I get when I am wearing it”. and whilst she doesn’t feel weird with it on, other people’s reactions can make her feel so.

Vecchioli says she would buy Glass again, but she’s conscious of the way some Glass Explorers feel they are part of an exclusive technology elite. “There’s no point to brag about it, especially when you buy your access to the club. she says. “I did not have many expectations before I got the device, despite the price. I was curious about it, and my curiosity was deeply satisfied”.

With Findit prepped for launch and a few hectic months of Glass use behind her, Vecchioli is confident that the future for face-mounted wearables will be bright. Regardless of whether the breakthrough product in the category comes from Google.

“Maybe Google Glass will not make it, but it is paving the way, and if it dies soon, it will leave room for other brands. It will be a matter of time and marketing. I bet you that in 2016, you’ll be wearing one!”

To find out more about Adrianna Vecchioli visit her website.

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The Advocate: Tom Emrich

 

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Tom Emrich is a writer and freelance mobile media consultant based in Toronto, Canada. A natural trend-surfer, Emrich easily occupies the roles of beta-tester, reviewer and wearable technology advocate.

Editor-In-Chief of the ‘Wearable App Review’, he is also the co-creator of the two Google Glass applications, ‘Glass Eats’ a restaurant discovery app and ‘Stay Glassy’ which provides Toronto residents with bus and streetcar timetable information.

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The things I love about Glass, are actually the little things” he says. “The fact that it’s hands-free and when I’m carrying groceries, or on a busy streetcar, I can just look up to see my email or who’s calling or texting.”

He describes wearing Glass in public, as like “seeing a unicorn out in the wild [viralpullquote box_position=”right”]a unicorn out in the wild[/viralpullquote].” “People are a little bewildered, very curious, and I have a lot of people coming up to me asking if they can try it on and what does it do, but, for the most part, it’s a lot of stares and whispers.”

Emrich has documented his experiences publicly and says “you definitely stand out from the crowd. Because you have a device on our face that a lot of people don’t. Google’s program reminds me a lot of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. You literally are the lucky golden ticket winner from one of the chocolate bars.”

Privacy is still the number one question people have when viewing the device for the first time. “Are you videotaping me, are you recording me? Is that thing on? Those are the types of questions I get”

Emrich is sensitive to the social implications of Google’s disruptive product and the sense of exclusivity wearing Glass brings. “It’s hard not to say that Glass isn’t a status symbol [viralpullquote ]It’s hard not to say that Glass isn’t a status symbol[/viralpullquote]” he says. “A lot of the Google Glass Explorers have leveraged the device to be able to create careers out of them. To be able to create applications, to forge ahead in the wearables space.”

 

 

The rapid acceleration of interest in wearables is an area of intense interest to Emrich. Regardless of whether Glass succeeds or fails in its current form Emrich believes the category of smart-glasses, represents a transformative change in the way people will relate to computers in the future.

“I truly believe we will be wearing smart-glasses, come five, or seven years from now. We’re just at the dawn of this journey. There are a lot of kinks to work out.” he says. “It would be sad to think that this it. That we’ve already reached the future. There is a lot of growth that needs to happen in the category and with this product in general.”

Emerich thinks the Glass interface is still largely a product of the smartphone era and would like to see something akin to a more fully integrated version of augmented reality. “We can interface with technology in a brand new, meaningful and more contextual manner,” he says. “From the whole augmented-reality point-of-view of merging the digital world with the physical, this is not going to cut it.”

Emerich says that his first year of wearing Glass has been “powerful.” Both in terms of experiencing the hardware and software, but also in helping him form connections with new people. “I already knew before I received that big box in the mail that the future of technology is wearable” [viralpullquote ]I already knew before I received that big box in the mail that the future of technology is wearable.[/viralpullquote] he says.

“Everything in my gut says that this is the next step in our technological journey,” says Emrich. “It’s made me even more of a believer that this is where we’re headed. I would bet my house that in five to seven years, all of us will be wearing some smart-glass technology. To really reap the benefits of the digital world while still being able to maintain existence in the physical.”

To find out more about Tom Emrich visit his twitter account here.

 

Thanks to all the Glass Explorers for contributing their time and energy to this article.

Special Mention:  Mayank @Jamsnap for his patience in helping to integrate Jamsnap audio into this article.

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