I’m totally jazzed. It’s very exciting to be part of the first thousands of people on the planet that are going to get to use this technology. —Erik Endress, maker of Share With 911 and selected winner of #ifihadglass

The prototype wearable computer Google Glass has been turning heads. The hyped Google Glass is that much closer to home as Glass Explorers from last year’s Google I/O Conference receive the device, and as Google has contacted select applicant winners of the #ifihadglass competition.

“I was shocked to get accepted,” said Jennifer Williams, an #ifihadglass winner. Williams is an instructor at Country Day School in Largo, Fla., and plans to use Glass to enhance her teaching and learning for students. “I really thought it was a shot in the dark, but I figured I should at least try for the school and for our new students. So when I found out I was very, very excited.”

#ifihadglass applicants applied for Glass by posting a message of no more than 50 words on Twitter or Google+ with the hashtag #ifihadglass. Google opened the program to the public Feb. 20-27, saying it sought after “bold, creative individuals.” Google selected 8,000 applicants to have the option of purchasing the $1,500 device, where recipients will retrieve it in either New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. Google began notifying winners in late March, but #ifihadglass winners have not received Glass yet.

Some application winners declined the option of purchasing the prototype of Google Glass, whereas others were excited about the prospect of testing the product’s first version.

“I’m totally jazzed,” said Erik Endress, maker of Share With 911 and selected winner of #ifihadglass. “It’s very exciting to be part of the first thousands of people on the planet that are going to get to use this technology.”

Google Glass Explorers signed up for Glass at Google’s 2012 I/O Conference. Explorers are primarily developers who will create apps for Google Glass.

Wearable computing

The driving idea behind creating Google Glass is to have technology available when needed and to remove it when unnecessary, making it a wearable computing device.

“[It is meant to be] there when you need it and out of the way when you don’t,” said Google’s Timothy Jordan, senior developer advocate for Glass.

In a presentation about Google Glass to developers in Austin, Texas, Jordan explained that technology is often more intrusive than it needs to be. He used the example of going to a concert and noticing that attendees who recorded the stage saw their tablet or smartphone screen more than the actual concert.

“By bringing technology closer, we can get it more out of the way,” Jordan said.

'Powerful use' of technology

As Google begins to release the first version of the device to Glass Explorers and #ifihadglass winners in the near future, people can see how Glass can do what Jordan and other Google developers envisioned.

Students at Williams’ school are sometimes able to watch lessons over again and at their own pace, and with Glass, teachers can record lessons free of cumbersome equipment.

“We’ve tried to do this with video cameras, and it’s difficult for teachers giving a lesson to keep it personalized,” Williams said. “They want to keep the focus on the child so they can present the lesson with the freedom of their hands. I think that recording the lessons and having the interactive component with the students [will make Glass useful in the classroom].”

#ifihadglass winners look forward to using the device to express creativity and close physical distances, as well as improve effectiveness in different work industries, which they expressed in their applications.

In her application, Williams said, “If I had Glass, each day I would capture the simple moments and the monumental breakthroughs of my young students with autism.”

Endress’ application for Glass on Twitter read, “#ifihadglass we could integrate our school safety technology with it to help first responders save lives using @ShareWith911.”

Endress is excited to use the technology to enhance response time to emergencies.

“[At Share With 911], we have built a web application for first responders,” Endress said. “Right now it’s very focused on school safety and responding to active shooters and emergencies. So our interest is actually the ability for a first responder or police officer to put on Google Glasses and be able to see information coming from the occupants of the building in real-time, which is a very, very powerful use of that technology.”

Glass commentators have noted that this version of Google Glass is still in its early stages and is not intended for the common consumer. In an interview with CNN, Sarah Rotman Epps, senior analyst at Forrester Research, said that as of right now Glass is not intended for the masses.

“What Google’s put out today is a prototype for developers,” Epps said. “They do intend to release a consumer product, but we see this as a device for excited early adopters ... as well as businesses in the medical field, as well as in many other industries.”

Success still unknown

With the accessibility of technology free of hands or touch commands, many have raised concerns about privacy issues Google Glass could invade.

Eight members of Congress sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page asking what, if any, restrictions will be set on Glass users.

“As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of average Americans,” caucus co-chairman Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, wrote in the letter. “Because Google Glass has not yet been released and we are uncertain of Google’s plans to incorporate privacy protections into the device, there are still a number of answered questions that we share.”

Others believe that smartphones could just as easily infringe on privacy as Glass could.

“I’ve been pretty shocked to see how draconian some of the responses have been,” Endress said. “If I’m walking around in New York City then I don’t think for two seconds that somebody isn’t able to take my picture. All the stuff that [people are saying about Glass] my iPhone can do right now.”

While this version of Google Glass is in its early stages, many speculate that the apps developed for the device will determine its success.

“Developers are still getting their feet wet,” said Paul Miller in an article about Google Glass apps on The Verge. “Beyond the home screen, it’s up to Glass Explorers to wade through the good apps, the bad apps and the broken apps.”

Although people speculate about the future of Glass, many enjoy the features it currently offers. Chris Angelini, a Glass Explorer and worldwide editor-in-chief of Tom’s Hardware, and his team signed up for Glass at last year’s Google’s I/O Conference to evaluate its performance.

While Angelini was writing a review on Glass’ hardware, his 2-year-old son asked what he was doing. Angelini said he “indulged” his son and let him wear Glass for a couple minutes. He posted the video clip on YouTube, showing what the world looked like from his toddler’s perspective.

“That’s finally when I became excited about it,” Angelini said. “I don’t think it hit me until that point when I was putting the story together, and then I went back and watched it and I thought how cool it would be if my parents had a tool like that at their disposal when I was a kid, and I could go back and watch parts of my childhood from the perspective of a little two-and-a-half-foot creature, and how awesome that would be.”

While some wonder whether or not Glass will catch on, many agree that it is among the first of more wearable computing technology to come.

“I think our kids moving forward are going to experience life in a completely different way,” Angelini said. “A lot of those memories we didn’t really preserve are going to be that easy, you can have so much storage capability and tools to capture everything without even having to think about it.”

Google Glass promotional video

Google's official promo video for Google Glass.

Google Glass from the Eyes of a Toddler

A 2-year-old uses Google Glass.

Abby Stevens is an intern for the deseretnews.com Faith and Family sections. She is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Contact Abby at astevens@deseretdigital.com.