The time has come and Google has announced the launch of its Glass Explorer programme in the UK, after releasing the ground-breaking product in the US back in April of last year. If you're over the age of 18 and have a spare £1,000 to hand, then you can buy yourself a pair of what Google is still calling a 'prototype' online today.
Despite Glass's limited release to date, there are already a wealth of developers building applications that utilise the wearable technology, and a vast proportion of these have focused around educational or work-process driven tools. Industries from gaming, tourism and law enforcement, to construction and healthcare are grabbing the attention of Glass applications in the making, and early signs indicate that the technology could serve to disrupt day-to-day behaviour in the same way that smart phones and tablets have done in the last five years.
With the exception of a proportionally limited number of wealthy or technologically slanted institutions, the education sector is broadly seen as a laggard in its appetite to embrace new technologies and processes. BESA figures estimated the number of tablets in the UK hit 250,000 in 2013, a 150% rise on the figure of 100,000 in 2012. The association further forecasts that nearly a third of all students will have access to a tablet by 2020. Will the proliferation of wearable technologies such as Google Glass disrupt tablet sales in education and stifle growth, or could such technologies complement the embrace of smart technologies?
Tablets have brought efficiencies and functionality that simply weren't possible in the days of solely hardback textbooks and chalkboards, but how will Google Glass find its place in the modern classroom or lecture theatre? Should wearable technology provide all the answers? Slower movers to date may see the benefit of being able to leap-frog technologies much like how many emerging economies embraced mobile phones before even having an established and assessable domestic landline telephony network in place.
The opportunities for Glass in education are endless. Teachers and lecturers could for example create customised tutorials during a class where custom content is driven into the Glass display dependent upon the student's capabilities. Explanations that vary in complexity and depth could provide a workable solution to learners with vastly different learning speeds and styles. In sport and activity based learning, performers could wear Glass, providing the audience with real-time, first person view and instructions on the activity - all of which could be recorded for review later.
Avoiding the need to miss a field trip due to cost, a class of any size could be taken on a virtual field trip to any corner of the world, guided by voice and video by a single tour-guide that is readily available to answer any questions from the budding audience at the point of source. Should instructions be in a different language, Glass claims to be able to translate live on display.
Whether Google Glass, Oculus Rift or another immersive technology will be the invention of the century to date awaits to be seen. However, when wearable technologies are commoditised and financially accessible en masse they will become commercially viable tools for the classroom.