The Wayne State University Libraries recently completed their first custom app for Google Glass called “Wayne State Campus Explorer,” a discovery app that allows users to wander the campus while getting information on the places around them. As the user draws closer to a location, the app displays other information like building hours and other points of interest. Currently, all of the libraries are plotted in the app as well as major campus buildings.
Earlier this year, the Libraries began experimenting with Google Glass, a wearable computer with an augmented reality visual display. The computer frame comes with or without lenses and displays information in a prism projector located just above the right eye. It has the ability to take photos and HD video and allows the user to access the internet, weather, Google Hangouts, email, news and integration of specific apps. Users can use voice commands to initiate Google Glass or access a touchpad located on the side of the Glass, allowing users to control the device by swiping through a timeline-like interface on the screen.
“This is just the first step in experimenting with what the Glass can do,” said Elliot Polak, Wayne State University Libraries Assistant Director for Discovery and Innovation. “There are limitless applications not only for the libraries but for all areas of the university.”
Polak and his team are already looking into further developing the app to have more library-specific mapping and wayfinding abilities. The app has potential to guide a user directly to a book in the stacks that he or she is searching for. The app could send alerts to users when they get close to a new feature or special collection that the library would like to highlight. Patrons could walk up to a room to discover when the room can be reserved and make the reservation from the Glass. Someone could walk by a library and check to see if there are any computers available for use.
“We’re really interested in what people would like the Glass to do to enhance their Wayne State Library and campus experience,” said Polak. “Those ideas will drive us in developing further applications.”
In addition to use in the library, Google Glass can be a valuable tool in the classroom. Instead of looking down at notes or a screen, faculty can use Google Glass to read their notes from the display while maintaining eye contact with the classroom. In distance education, instructors could give real-time video tours of campus, virtual field trips and other applications where a distance student would benefit from being embedded in the experience. Google Glass also has the ability to provide real-time language translation of foreign texts both visually and through audio. The capability of voice translations also allow users to speak to others in their native languages. At the campus level, the Google Glass can be an asset to orienting new students and employees as they take tours of campus. Without having to look down at a smartphone, Google Glass offers a safer alternative by allowing users to keep their heads up and aware of their surroundings.