Wearable computers like Google Glass could be game-changers for surgeons calling up medical information while operating on a patient or teachers remotely monitoring students’ work all at a blink of an eye.
But with the technology developing at a frantic pace it’s easy for the privacy and ethical implications to be left behind.
The University of Canberra is attempting to redress the balance with a series of “physical and virtual” meetups looking at the educational and social implications of wearable computers, beginning with an event at the INSPIRE Centre on Monday night focused on Google Glass.
The ability of Google Glass users to read text messages or emails, search the internet, take photos and shoot video without having to reach for a mobile phone, can make it easy for the device to be dismissed as a nifty, albeit unnecessary, high-tech gadget for geeks.
But INSPIRE director and UC’s associate dean of innovation Professor Robert Fitzgerald said the “first person view” offered by the device had huge implications for education, training and first responders.
“It’s a watershed event, we’ve got about 121 people coming from a broad range of areas, educators, doctors,” he said. “We’ve got some emergency medicos from Calvary coming and we’re very interested in working with them about the use of [Google Glass] in the emergency room.
“These are high stress environments and access to high-quality information is critical.”
Google Glass combines voice recognition software, a camera, Wi-Fi, bluetooth and a small screen that to the wearer looks like a 46-inch monitor.
The glasses are not yet available in Australia, although there are some devices in the country being used by testers as part of the company’s Glass Explorer Program – currently only available to US citizens.
Professor Fitzgerald said wearable computers did have privacy implications, but similar issues were raised at the advent of camera phones.
“We’re interested in asking questions, where might this work, where do we need to be careful with it” he said.
“A lot of these technologies are described as disruptive because they do challenge some of our assumptions. Our interest is primarily around an education, academic, research point of view, but all of those things have to be deeply connected to the social and cultural.
“We need to understand how do we work in productive and respectful ways in this environment.”
The event will feature three speakers in Canberra and seven via video from New Zealand and the US.
Although it is sold out it will be live streamed from at youtube.com/watch?v=YCd2kRhAVAw with about 500 viewers expected to log in from across Australia, New Zealand and the US.
Future meetups will look at unmanned airborn systems (UAS), or drone technology, and quantified self data systems.