Glass offers IWU students a new perspective

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Amelia Smith

 

Depending how closely you read the e-mails that our University sends us, you may have heard that Illinois Wesleyan University recently received Glass, the optical head mounted display being developed by Google. This announcement was followed by a call for applications to use the device in a creative and useful way. The student organization ACM (association for computing machinery), better recognized as the computer science club, applied and received Glass for 30 days to design an app. What they created is a self-guided tour of IWU.

Around 15 members of ACM worked during the month, devoting around 60-80 person hours to complete the app. It was the first time they had programmed for Glass, but club president senior Alan Russian described the programming as being similar to Android—just with different features. The club broke into four to five different teams that tackled different portions of the project.

“We broke it up into digestible, small pieces, available for people who were good at computer science and people who knew less,” said chief of staff senior Jeremy Albert. “A lot of member aren’t computer science majors, but they still had roles.”

I had an opportunity to test the app out. While it is running you see three different campus buildings with an arrow indicating the direction they are located in (the app uses a compass). If you want to know more about the building, all you have to do is click Glass’ button.

An information plate displays some basic facts about the building (I learned how many square feet State Farm Hall is) and you can scroll through pictures of the interior. For the first time since I’ve been on campus, I saw what the inside of Presser Hall looks like.

The pictures were selected well, they showed the exterior, often from different angles, and various parts of the interior, showcasing what the building had to offer. If you were short on time, it would be a nice way to take a peek inside a building as you walked past it.

“We built it hoping sometime in the future more people would have access to Glass,” Alan said. “Admissions could lend out Glass for people to have a self-guided tour.”

If you enter a building, the app automatically opens the information plates for you. I remembered how when I was touring IWU for the first time, I had a hard time telling the buildings apart. It would have kept me from getting lost when I was trying to find the class I was trying to shadow.

If ACM had more time with Glass, they would have liked to add a vocal greeting for each building, and possibly add an option for different languages.

Alan described that Glass provides different opportunities than a phone would. For example, because Glass is always present, an app can be designed with the knowledge that a notification would always been seen (unlike a phone in which case people might not notice if it’s in their pocket or bag.)

Though Glass still feels very much like a prototype, it is interesting to see how this technology may be incorporated into our lives, like helping give tours of IWU.