A new age of wearable technology
Farming is one of the -- if not the most -- hands-on professions in the world. Sometimes your hands are literally full, so it's tough to stop, dial a phone number or search for information on your smartphone, even though that brief task may mean the difference between productivity and a standstill. All of the most advanced technology in the world doesn't do you a bit of good if you can't operate it.
There's a new class of digital technology on the way that will change the way you communicate and operate on your farm and eliminate this conundrum. It will free up your hands and eliminate the friction between intent and action. It will make your smartphone or tablet computer part of you.
Wearable computers -- like the Google Glass device -- are making their way to the consumer marketplace. With availability expected sometime in the first half of 2014, Google Glass, a device tied to a smartphone or tablet and worn just like a pair of glasses, is touted as a way to have direct access to all the features of these devices without having to reach into your pocket and divert your attention for that access.
"Is this a glorified smartphone, and that's all it is? Something tells me there's more to this than that," says Higginsville, Missouri, farmer and crop insurance agent Gary Riekhof after trying on a Google Glass for the first time.
Glass is made of titanium and plastic, a durable combination, and uses a .5-inch square prism to display content in a translucent square that sits just above the user's right eye. Content is displayed just above the normal line of sight, going a long way to preventing it from being a distraction or intrusion.
"When you're looking at the display, it's like a 25-inch screen 8 feet away. So, when you're looking at it, it's a pretty sizable little rectangle," says Daniel Lopez, a Google Glass Guide at the company's Venice Beach, California, campus. "If pressed, I would say it's less distracting than looking down texting. The device is designed to be out of your way when you don't want it and to be there when you need it."
The nuts and bolts of Glass
Google Glass doesn't operate on its own. The device is paired to a smartphone -- Android, Apple iPhone, or Blackberry -- via Bluetooth. It operates in concert with an application that's downloaded to the phone and is tied to the user's Google account. Google is developing Glassware, its app platform that creates content in cards. In the Glass view, the cards are displayed to the user as if they're encircling his or her head on a ring.
The device has a touch-sensitive panel on which the user can tap and swipe forward, backward, and down in order to navigate through the applications. It also features a set of native functions common on most smartphones: photo and video capability, navigation, Google search, weather, email, texting, and phone.
For audio, there's no ear plug, but the device's earpiece makes sound audible via contact to the user's head and auditory nerve behind the ear, avoiding intrusion into the user's hearing just as the prism does with vision by its placement and translucence.