Joel Graves gets a beta look through the Google Glass

Martha's Vineyard Regional High School teacher Joel Graves outfitted in his cutting edge "Google Glass." — Photo courtesy of Joel Graves

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School teacher Joel Graves sees things differently than most people. He has a computer screen attached to his pair of glasses.

Mr. Graves, 33, is a “Google Glass Explorer.” He is one of only 8,000 people chosen nationwide to become a beta tester of the cutting-edge technology developed by Google that puts a small computer screen in the upper right-hand corner of the user’s field of vision. It is attached to a frame resembling a pair of glasses that contains a camera and a computer.

The device has a microphone and responds to voice commands. The side of the frame is a touch pad. Sounds are transmitted through one of the temples using bone-induction technology.

The Glass projects an image that looks like a 25-inch television screen floating approximately eight feet away. It has a camera that can take both video with sound and still pictures.

“This is a very interesting piece of technology,” Mr. Graves said. “I think some people are a little nervous when they see it because they assume I am recording everything I’m doing, which is definitely not the case.”

He said he has had to plan a little extra time when he goes somewhere wearing it because so many people stop him to ask about it.

“Most everyone under 20 seems to know what it is and wants to play with it,” said Mr. Graves, who teaches history and alternative education at the high school. “They want one.”

On the other hand, people over 20 may know what it is but are less impressed. They tend to be more apprehensive.

“I’m a pretty private person and I’ve noticed more people whispering when I walk by wearing them. I’m pretty sure they’re talking about my Glass,” he said. It is worn like a pair of glasses with temples over the ears, one of which contains the computer and battery. When worn with the included sunglass shade or a hat, not as many people notice it, he said.

Plans are to make the Glass a self-contained interactive device, but for now it must be linked through a cell phone via a Bluetooth connection to access the Internet, according to Mr. Graves. “I see it as primarily a second screen for my cellphone,” Mr. Graves said.

“It would be great for someone who works on the phone or needs to work with their hands while getting information from the Internet or a another source,” he said. “It would be great for kids who spend a lot of time on their phone.” He said it could free their hands for other things and get their heads out of their phones.

“The more I use it the more I really think that if you use a smart phone a lot it could be useful because it provides the information you want quickly and easily,” he said.

As a device that can film what the wearer sees Mr. Graves said, “I think it’s a real game changer. I expect it to be a good teaching tool. It would be easy to film a virtual field trip by one student that the whole class could watch.

“As a track coach I think it will be interesting to see what our athletes are doing from their own perspectives,” he said.

The Google Glass has been in development for a couple of years although Google, uncharacteristically for a high tech company, has been relatively quiet about the project. Their website shows what it can do through photos and videos that were made with a Glass, but it has no written description of the device. The page that is entitled how-to-get-one says, “Applications are now closed.”

The Google Glass is not for sale to the general public, yet. Mr. Graves said he does not expect Google to begin selling the Glass until sometime in 2014.

He had to apply to become one of the “Explorers,” one of the 8,000 who were given the opportunity to buy one. He thinks his chances of being chosen were enhanced because he is a teacher and for over four years he has used the android operating system, which was developed by Google and is used in phones and the Google Glass.

Mr. Graves paid $1,500 for the Glass and had to travel to New York City for a fitting and a brief lesson on how to use it. “It costs money to be on the bleeding edge of technology. The bleeding edge doesn’t come cheap,” he said, quoting a fellow teacher.

The only condition of the purchase was that he not sell it. Public interest in the device is so intense that owners can easily double their money selling them, he said. Google encourages the users to give them feedback primarily through a chat site for fellow Glass users.

Google sends out upgrades every month with tweaks and improvements and sometimes new apps. Mr. Graves said the sound quality is not as good as his phone and like most smart phones Internet surfing is not as easy as on his computer. “Right now, when I have a choice, I use my computer first, my cellphone next, and then the Glass.

“As a history teacher, I am interested in seeing whether this thing takes off,” he said, as a user he will continue to be an Explorer.

Mr. Graves has used his Glass to record scenes around the Vineyard. To see what he has seen go to his Google Plus page, Joel Graves.