Mission Impossible Now Possible with Google Glass

google-glassIn the beginning of Mission Impossible 2, Ethan Hunt receives his next assignment while rock climbing. The assignment comes via sunglasses showing him a screen directly in his field of vision giving him the necessary mission details.

Cool, but out-of-reach technology for most people. Maybe possible for the military but not for the average person, right?

When the series first began over a decade ago, sunglasses projecting move-like images and talking to you seemed unrealistic or at least simply out of reach for civilians. But not anymore.

Instead of impossible, think Google Glass.

What is Google Glass?

Currently in use mostly by software developers and “early adopters” at a cost of $1,500 for an “Explorer Edition” pair, Google Glass does what we see Ethan Hunt’s sunglasses do in Mission Impossible 2 plus a lot more.

Google Glass, part of what’s being called “wearable computers,” are eyewear with a range of capabilities and features including;

  • Touchpad
  • Camera
  • Display
  • Voice activation
  • Wifi
  • Gyroscope
  • Accelerometer
  • Compass
  • Ambient light sensing & proximity sensor (ability to approximate human eye response to light and distance)
  • Bone conduction audio transducer (ability for sound conduction to the inner ear through vibrations in the bones of the skull)
  • Thermometer
  • Altimeter
  • Barometer

While Google Glass is not quite available for everyday use like we currently use smart phones, it’s coming. Not only that, but it’s already in use in a range of applications.

Current Google Glass Applications

Current application for Google Glass exists in a variety of settings including healthcare fields and the military with plans for use on safety glasses.

Within healthcare, Google Glass allows students to watch procedures, for documentation of procedures, and for tele-consulting with experts. Its uses also include communicating with families during a procedure as well as calming patients during procedures where physicians guide devices into the body (balloons to expand blood vessels and catheters to break up clots, for example).

Not new to the military, Google Glass technology, integrated with its Q-Warrior technology, appeals to military personnel who like its low use of power, its quick access to information, and that it doesn’t interfere with a soldier’s field of vision. Even though the technology has been in use within the military for a while, how it’s done is constantly improving.

Military application for Google Glass technology includes aiding in search and rescue missions and helping air traffic controllers in forward areas. The devices help in these and other situations by measuring distances, displaying 3D building layouts, and transmitting video from drones. Google Glass technology also allows for live streaming of data to soldiers on the ground including enemy position, position of fellow soldiers, maps of buildings and videos of what to expect around the corner or over the hill.

Another developing application for Google Glass technology involves integrating it with safety glasses. XOne is currently working on such devices, which would cost $400-$600 for the device plus $199/month for service. This seems like a lot but think of the money-saving potential from reduced down time needed for repairs as well as in its possibility for accelerating training programs.

In addition, through tele-consulting and real-time training, Google Glass presents a unique opportunity in the areas of production, safety, and beyond. Not only that, but technology is being developed to track individual worker’s statistics, such as how much they lift and the repetitive tasks they perform, to aid in preventing injuries and thus reducing production downtime.

Certainly, these current applications open the door to imagining even more wide-spread use such as for teams working in different locations, police officers working crowd control or trying to catch a fleeing criminal, and even ordinary citizens reporting news or other events in real-time. What seemed impossible a decade ago seems nearly endless now, doesn’t it?

Safety & Privacy Concerns

Along with any new technology, concerns abound, mostly those involving safety and privacy.

Privacy concerns include the increased ease and ability to record video and audio without someone knowing they’re being recorded. This surveillance potential unnerves a lot of people, especially those already regularly concerned with privacy violations as well as with the ease of use without someone’s knowledge. Evidence of such concerns comes from casinos that are banning the technology and current legislation in Russia and the Ukraine that “prohibits use of spy gadgets that can record video, audio or take photographs in an inconspicuous manner.” (See Smartglasses in Wikipedia.)

In addition to these privacy concerns are concerns over safety not unlike those that exist already with texting while driving. Distractions while using Google Glass along with the potential for an increasingly overwhelming amount of information all at once certainly gives merit to concerns over safety.

Everyday Consumer Use

While Google Glass isn’t quite at the everyday consumer-use level, it’s getting close. Google is currently collaborating with Loxottica, makers of Oakley and Ray-Ban, to “get more stylish” with frame designs that appeal to a wider audience and that are less conspicuous in public. Google is also working on making the technology available for those needing prescription lenses.

Making the devices even more appealing also involves Google adding its own apps along with the addition of a wide-range of additional apps being developed for this and other “wearable computers”. Those apps include Evernote, Skitch, The New York Times and a variety of other third party apps. In addition, the technology also involves data storage and integration with other devices like smart phones.

On a practical level everyone can relate to, Google Glass will allow you to do much of what you already do with your smart phone and then some. This includes…

  • Recording videos and take pictures hands free.
  • Receiving directions in front of you while driving
  • Texting truly hands free.
  • Sharing videos and photographs socially just by seeing and then talking.

And while Google may be slightly more visible in this field than anyone else, that doesn’t mean they’re the only name in the game. In fact, a plethora of other companies including Samsung, Microsoft and Apple are also working on their own versions of “wearable computers.” What do you see Google Glass technology doing for you?

Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and Solutions, Part 2

Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and SolutionsA great deal of misconceptions exists about night driving, and “night driving eyewear” is actually a highly sought-after product. But there are some significant considerations when searching for them, and there really is no catch-all sort of solution. Before trying night vision eyewear for driving, be sure to employ the tips provided in Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and Solutions, Part 1 as well as additional tips provided by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Lens Color and Night Vision

There are two main reasons people generally look for night driving glasses. First, to enhance contrast and depth perception in dim light. Second, to reduce glare from oncoming headlights. Let’s look at each of these reasons in turn and try to determine if lens color can provide any solutions to nighttime driving vision problems.

Enhancing Contrast and Depth Perception

This goal can only be achieved during the 2+ hour duration before and during dusk or at other times that are dim without being dark. A yellow/amber lens can brighten surroundings using the small amount of light available. But the key is that these lenses require the presence of some light as benefits are lost when darkness fully descends. Once it is fully dark, not much can help improve visibility.

But even with the possibility of a yellow/amber lens improving visibility in some conditions, the use of tint of any sort once dusk hits is controversial. In fact, eye experts at Laramy-K Optical strongly discourage the use of yellow lenses for night driving and even driving at dusk because “ANY tint further reduces the amount of light transmitted to the eye.” They quote Dr. Merrill J. Allen from the Forensic Aspects of Vision and Highway Safety who says that yellow lenses can “actually impair visual performances and retard glare recovery.”

Reducing Glare from Oncoming Headlights

This goal is achieved using almost anything other than clear. However, this need usually applies in the dark when headlights appear even brighter by contrast.  This type of glare is different than that generated by the sun.  Thus, a polarized lens, which is by far the best for reducing sun glare, will not have the same benefit against headlights.  To reduce headlight glare, a dark mirror lens would likely be most effective.  Unfortunately, this type of lens is neither practical nor advisable in the dark. Arguably, the best alternative then is an indoor/outdoor lens that has a light mirror coating over a clear lens. However, even this type of lens only allows 50-60% light transmission, so it will darken not just the view of the lights but your total surroundings as well. Obviously, this presents a danger with the already dark conditions of nighttime.

So what’s the best choice?

Drivers must understand what they are trying to achieve and how important that goal is to them. They must also realize the trade-off for trying to reduce headlight glare. Experts at Safety Glasses USA advise customers to “please choose wisely,” and to cease using any lens if it impairs vision. Customers must realize that there is no perfect or even ideal type of night driving glasses because there are too many variables such as one’s sensitivity to light, one’s natural ability to see in the dark, the varying environmental light conditions and driver objective.

Conclusion

The bottom line remains that having perfect vision for driving at dawn, dusk or nighttime simply isn’t possible. The first approach should be to remove any obstacles to clear vision, such as those suggested in Shedding Some Light on Night Driving Challenges and Solutions, Part 1. Should you choose to experiment with night driving glasses or even with various lens tints, know clearly that eye experts warn against this as a safe option.

Wearing a Face Shield

Elvex BrushGuard w/27dB NRR Equalizer Earmuffs and Face Shield

Elvex BrushGuard w/27dB NRR Equalizer Earmuffs and Face Shield

Face shields are a requirement in many professions and for a variety of tasks in the workplace. OSHA requires the use of face shields when workers are exposed to flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation. Specific jobs requiring the use of face shields include welders, some medical workers, industrial painters and workers in chemical plants.

While not all jobs and tasks require a face shield, they are often simply a good idea. The following 5 conditions warrant consideration for the use of face shields.

  1. Flying fragments. This includes dust and other material that can fly into eyes such as when using power tools to cut, shape or remove materials. Individuals using chainsaws should also use face shields like the Evlex BrushGuard with Equalizer Earmuffs and Face Shield or the Elvex ProGuard Loggers Safety Cap.
  2. Chance of Splashing. Those handling acids, corrosives, chemical adherents or strippers and those working with blood and other body fluids should wear face shields. Shields such as the Elvex Clear Hardcoated Lexan Face Shield can help protect against chemical splashes.
  3. Heat. Anyone doing furnace maintenance, engaging in welding or handling any molten substance should use a face shield. Pyramex offers several helmets providing comprehensive face and head protection for these situations. (See How to Choose a Welding Helmet and Basic Welding Safety for more details related to this topic.)
  4. Glare. While many circumstances warrant the need for glare reduction, sports probably provides one of the best examples. For example, face shields worn on football helmets not only help reduce glare, shields such as the Bangerz ProVU Smoke Flexible Football Eyeshield can also help protect against a variety of other factors.
  5. Impact. Face shields can provide additional protection against impact. However, OSHA does not recommend that workers rely on them solely for this purpose. Instead, wearing impact safety eyewear below the shield is a good idea to ensure protection against impact hazards.

In addition to the above, there are a number of considerations to take into account when deciding on the type of face shield to use as well as the features to include. Consider the following 5 options when choosing a face shield.

  1. Side shields on face shields provide increased protection. Those working with heat should definitely use side shields, but really any task where material could be flying around warrants using side shields. Many face shields come with protection for the sides of the face.
  2. Goggle styles such as the Jackson MonoShield with Goggles provide another option for face protection for those working in clean rooms, public utilities, metal processing, foundries, mining, construction and more.
  3. Headgear with face shields usually comes in adjustable styles. Hard hat designs such as the Elvex UltiMate Standard Ratchet Headgear for Universal Face Shields and the Elvex UltiMate Heavy Duty Ratchet Headgear for Universal Face Shields provide head and face protection. Hard hat designs can come with shields that are either plastic or wire-screen and lift-front or removable. Face shields with headgear typically include straps that are adjustable to fit an individual user, allowing face shields to be easily shared between individuals.
  4. Windows are available in removable or lift-front design. Removable windows allow for easy replacement while lift-front styles can be lowered and raised easily as the task requires.
  5. Window material comes in plastic or wire-screen models. Plastic protects against light impact and is available in clear or filtered. Wire-screen windows may include a glass or plastic insert and can protect against moderate impact, but they are not recommended for work involving chemical or liquid hazards.

For many tasks, a face shield is an absolute must. And while face shields provide a great deal of protection for the face with regard to elements such as heat, chemical splash and dust, shields DO NOT provide complete protection against impact hazards. For this reason, OSHA recommends wearing safety glasses below face shields for comprehensive impact protection.