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College of St. Scholastica nursing school instructor Paula Byrne has been testing Google Glass since November. She said she feels the device has applications in the health care industry. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)
College of St. Scholastica nursing school instructor Paula Byrne has been testing Google Glass since November. She said she feels the device has applications in the health care industry. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

Will Google Glass change the face of technology?

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It's a run-of-the-mill Tuesday night, and nursing school professor Paula Byrne is imagining talking to a patient about his symptoms.

She's practicing giving her future patient her full and undivided attention, looking at him face to face. But Byrne is speaking aloud -- recording data -- and simultaneously searching online for the patient's symptoms using her Google Glass.

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Google has an ongoing experiment allowing individuals to wear the company's light headset, which resembles and is worn like glasses without lenses, that takes photos, captures and shares live video, sends emails, makes calls, conducts Internet searches via voice command and provides virtual directions.

In order to be a candidate, one has to fill out an online application. The application asks how a person plans to use the device, so Google can continue to make improvements.

Byrne, chair of the Department of Traditional Undergraduate Nursing at the College of St. Scholastica, is one of the first people in Duluth to wear Google Glass.

As a tester, Byrne is part of a brave new world of wearable technology. Google announced the headset in 2012, and they've popped up in various cities, sparking curiosity, fascination and, in the case of one San Francisco wearer, physical confrontation.

The headset has a touchpad on the side -- the part that goes over your ear -- users can tap or swipe for navigation. When the phrase "OK, Glass" is said, the device takes commands such as launching an app, taking a picture or starting a phone call.

"I was interested in doing some doctoral work and learning about emerging disruptive technology," Byrne said of her interest in the Glass technology. "It's important for us nurses to be able to type data while giving our patients the full attention they deserve."

Byrne has been using her Google Glass since November.

She had to pay $1,600 to keep the glasses, and she's not allowed to give them away or sell them because they are attached to her Google account. The devices still have yet to be sold to the general public.

So far, Byrne has used the glasses to type in data, call other nurses and post information to the Web. She even will have her nursing students use the headset to see if they can access certain health information.

"This could be the future tool for nurses," Byrne said. "It will be good for my profession, especially since it will keep me germ-free."

And she's not alone. Surgeons and emergency room physicians in Seattle also have been testing the device, and they believe it could be used by first responders to send video and patient information from accident scenes, according to media reports.

One of the many cool perks Google Glass participants receive is the power to recommend other people for the Google Glass experiment. Byrne nominated the director at St. Scholastica for health care innovation, so now there are two devices on campus.

Even though Byrne thinks Google Glass is useful, she said technology doesn't come naturally to her. She describes using the headset daily as a challenge. Trying to manage several websites, keeping up with the battery life and constantly using voice commands can be aggravating for Byrne.

"I haven't thrown my glasses across the room, but I felt like doing it," Byrne said. "It's like Facebook on steroids. These glasses are taking it to the next level."

Reaction to Google Glass

People can catch Byrne wearing Google Glass once a week in the community. She will take pictures of the weather, herself or cool things she sees. Google's experiment encourages participants to wear the glasses in public. Most of the time, she will let curious college students try the headset on.

"We are warned that we shouldn't let people try on the glasses because they could walk away," Byrne said. "I kind of feel like that won't happen in Duluth. Young people get so intrigued and excited, so I just can't help but to let them try the glasses on."

Byrne's glasses certainly spark curiosity; however, there are some people that aren't so accepting. She says it can be frustrating because some people worry that she may be recording them without their permission. Even though Byrne will assure them that the camera is off.

"I've had some negative reactions from some of my academic colleagues," Byrne said. "One colleague even asked me to take them off in a meeting."

It's clear not everyone is a fan of the new device.

In San Francisco, a woman who says she was assaulted at a bar after refusing to stop wearing Google Glass released video footage of the encounter that she filmed with the device.

Tech writer Sarah Solcum, in a video posted to YouTube, gave a narration of the footage, which she says captures the attack.

Overall, Byrne encourages people to join the Google Glass experiment. She says using the glasses can be a little tricky at first, but eventually folks will warm up to it.

"I would recommend people to try out the Google glasses," Byrne said. "You shouldn't condemn it until you try it. This product definitely has a lot of potential."

Google Glass is expected to be available to consumers later this year.

Demonstration video for Google Glass:

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