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By Terry Dean
At a quick glance, you might mistake Vincent Taglia for one of those movie cyborgs or secret agents with the eyewear device he's usually sporting. But don't think of the Terminator or James Bond. Think Google.
Taglia is sporting the popular and nifty Google Glass device. The product hasn't hit the general public just yet. Some users, like Taglia, a student at Oak Park and River Forest High School, signed up with Google to buy them, as a kind of trial-run product before it hits the general market. Taglia got his device in September, costing about $1,500. The OPRF junior considers it an investment because he's currently developing software for the device.
Google launched the product in February of last year.
Google Glass is a "wearable computer," as described by the tech giant. A rim fits around the head, similar to eyeglasses. A tiny screen is attached to the device's right side, positioned near the eye. Through voice command or touch sensors, users can explore the Internet, send a text, take pictures and video, and much more, all hands-free with the device. The screen — no bigger than a stamp — is projected as a virtual picture, easy enough to see. But the screen doesn't block the eye, instead resting just above the normal line of vision.
The device has no eyeglass frame attached, though models can come with clear accessory lenses, as well as dark ones, similar to sunglasses. A speaker is built into the device but it also comes with an ear plug accessory. The device has a full-day battery life and comes with a charger and protective case.
Potential buyers of Google Glass were put on a waiting list. Taglia, 16, who describes himself as a tech guy, was able to get the device. Google is looking for users like Taglia to develop apps for the device.
The OPRF student wears his device at school, home and in the neighborhood. He's only allowed a few close friends to try it on. Taglia also gets curious inquiries from strangers.
"Mainly it's just like, 'Oh my Gosh, is that Google Glass?' and I'm like, 'Yes it is.' And they're like, 'What does it do?' And I usually explain what it does and how it works," Taglia said.
He also gets interesting reactions at OPRF. Some of his teachers inquire about the device while others have asked him to take it off during class, which Taglia does. He never wears the device when taking a test because it could be used for cheating. He does use it for some classroom instruction.
"Teachers ask us to look stuff up sometimes; I've used it for that. I've used it in science to take pictures of my labs," he said. "My teacher says that we should, if you feel like you want to, take pictures for our lab reports because it's easier to remember. Especially for that, I can take a lot of pictures while I'm doing the lab, because I'm hands-free. And in biology right now, we handle chemicals sometimes and so we have special gloves on and can't touch anything else but the lab equipment.
"So it's great to have a hands-free device that can take a picture," Taglia said.
One of the apps he's developing for Google Glass is a medication-reminder alert.
"I feel that if it goes off in your pocket phone, you might not see and forget it. But if it pops up right in front of your face, you'll be like, 'OK, there it is, I need to take my medicine.'"
He noted that Illinois and some other states are considering banning the use of Google Glass while driving. Taglia doesn't support that move, stressing that the device doesn't obstruct the wearer's vision because the virtual screen is above the line of sight. And because the device is hands-free, it's actually safe to wear while driving, Taglia insists.
Another concern about the device is that it's always at the ready to record a video or snap a picture, which raises concerns about privacy.
Taglia insists that cell phones could be used in the same way without people's consent.
"People's phones are always out and all their phones have video recording. Most phones can video record and do something else so it looks like they're not [recording]. So the taking pictures and video, I don't really see that as a problem," he said.
Once Google Glass hits the general market in a newer version, Taglia said he'll likely buy those, perhaps trading in his current ones. He also sees the device going mainstream.
"Definitely when it gets cheaper and more available, I do see a lot of people having it," he said. "Just like with smartphones, it'll take people a little getting used to, but I think it's a great idea and really does have a future."