This week is the Google I/O conference in San Francisco. This conference is a developer conference where Google unveils new technologies.
The big stir was the keynote yesterday where Google showed off the Google Glass project. This is am augmented reality system which looks like a pair of glasses. Their demo was truly amazing so first watch the 5 minute demo and then I’ll comment on it a bit.
Very very cool stuff! There are two pieces to what you just saw.
Google is the opposite of Apple. Apple is a hardware company that make software. Google is a software company that makes hardware. It’s an important distinction because it provides the limitations to the products they produce. For example, if you want Apple software, you need to have Apple hardware to run it. The plus side is the software runs very well on the hardware because they control the whole system. The minus side is since it’s a closed ecosystem, your data goes in, but it doesn’t come out.
Google is a very open model. They want their software to run on any hardware system. On the plus side it means your data can go anywhere and be with you always. (sounds like Star Wars) On the minus side the hardware is of varying quality because Google is just providing a platform spec.
Make no mistake, Google doesn’t want to sell Google Glasses. They want other companies to create their own versions and sell them instead. They key point here is they would all use Google software.
In the demo video, the most amazing part to me is the software making it all work. All the participants video streams were visible at once in the Google+ Hangout room. They were able to seamlessly talk together and share their points of view. Regardless of what happens to Google Glasses, this video conferencing technology is amazing (and free!!).
There are several ways this technology will affect education in the future. Some are obvious and some are not so much.
Did you know there are actually professional video gamers who play in tournaments for lots of money? I watch live streams online of some of these gamers. Can you imagine when people start streaming what they are doing using Google Glasses? Imagine if some of the athletes in the Olympics start streaming what they are seeing live? (probably for a fee.) Or watching the view of your favorite sports players? It could be a whole new revenue stream.
Students will eventually start showing up to class with AR glasses. By that time, they will have many live streams they will be able to watch rather than pay attention to a lecture. Of course it will be easy to ban them, thus cementing the reputation of public education as out of touch with the real world, in this case literally!
Of course, the more adventurous teachers will see the beneficial uses of this technology. Imagine teaching a unit on the Egyptian Pyramids and being able to connect up with an Egyptian tour guide live and have the class experience them! How about a scientist in Antarctica? Or on the International Space Station? This opens up a world of semi-experiential learning.
But here’s the thing: why do you have to be in a classroom to do this? You could do it equally well in an online class. Once you separate the teacher and the student, it doesn’t matter how far away they are.
There is one more thing that I thought of that could be massively disruptive. How about if a student starts livestreaming their class? Basically they would be broadcasting the class session to the world. How many teachers would be ok with that? If not, why not?
One thing is for sure, like a coming storm the technology will be here soon. We had better start thinking about how to deal with it.