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Why Google Glass on the farm?
Google Glass is in the hands of just a few thousand people around the U.S. right now. Though that will change by the middle of 2014, by which time the company expects the device to be available to consumers, farmers in the Midwest had the chance this week to put on the device, test out a few of its features and think ahead to how it will become a part of their business moving forward.
After picking up his Google Glass last week in Los Angeles, Glass 'Explorer' Bruce Rasa took it straight to his family's farm near Higginsville, Missouri. Crop scouting, documenting machinery maintenance and frictionless hands-free communication were just 3 of the ideas forward-looking farmers discussed.
Gary Riekhof has been an early adopter of technology on his farm for decades. He tried on Glass for the first time this week. "Is this a glorified smartphone and that's all it is? Something tells me there's more to this than that," he said after wearing the device for a few minutes.
Gary's son Garrett Riekhof is in the process of becoming the leader of the family's corn, soybean and wheat farm. Garrett shares his father's love of technology and says areas of his work like machinery maintenance could benefit from Glass' hands-free documenting capabilities. "It's just kind of the epitome of hands-free technology," he says.
There is one concern with this type of device, though, and that's data privacy. But, Garrett says he's not as worried about that. "If it's going to a source which I don't understand or I don't trust, it's my choice whether I give them that data or not, or whether I use the data-collecting device," he says. "So, I think that's a lot of an issue that has to have common sense applied to it."
Here's a photo taken with Glass of a soybean leaf in a field on Riekhof's farm. Here's one potential efficiency-booster: Using Glass to take and send a photo immediately to your crop consultant, who if also wearing Glass, could get diagnose your problem and advise you without having to make a special trip to your farm.
The camera performs well in a lot of conditions that you'd probably face on the farm. This picture was taken with Glass during some late-night fieldwork. Gary and Garrett Riekhof both say they envision documenting machinery maintenance as one of the biggest potential functions of Glass and other wearable digital technology.
There was some question about whether the device would hold up in the heat and brightness of the average summer day in a corn or soybean field. This version of Glass offers a transition coating to the prism (where content is viewed). All the farmers testing it said this helped really boost visibility outdoors.
And it's not just for the prism; Here, Bruce Rasa's father Don, who stopped by on his last day of wheat harvest to try out Glass, shows off the sunglass lenses that can snap in to the device's frame.
If you're working in the shop and want to use Glass to document what you're doing or perform another function, there's a set of clear lenses available too. They're not safety goggles, but those will likely be available once Glass is consumer-ready.
The first farmers in the U.S. to get their hands on Google Glass talk about the future of the device and others like it.