USF’s Own Glass Explorer

Likening himself to a real life avatar, Joseph Evans is taking USF with him on his journey declaring, “Glass is Freedom.”

Video by Katy Hennig | USF News

By Barbara Melendez

     USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2013) – Yes, that guy over there is talking to his glasses – or rather to his Google Glass – the tiny square floating out in front of his glasses.

Joseph Evans, a PhD graduate research assistant in the Department of Anthropology, working in the Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies (AIST) is showing us that it’s time to hit the reset button – once again – on everything we know about personal computing, communicating and social media.

The next revolution is here and spreading because it is now possible to wear your computer – on your face.

USF is the first Tier 1 University within Florida to be part of the Google Glass vanguard of explorers, thanks to Evans.

When he saw the announcement on Google+ about the international search for “bold, creative individuals” to help test the device, Evans thought, “Why not apply?” His 50-words-or-less tweet to #ifihadglass was submitted in February, and he received the good news in March. He was to be what Google has dubbed a Glass Explorer.

Evans is perfectly suited to be one. Exploring is his life. As an archeologist specializing in cultural/heritage documentation and management, his travels have taken him to Cape Canaveral recently and many sites throughout the Southeastern U.S. – with many more to follow.


Expensive Proposition

Evans scraped together the funds to purchase Glass, but getting to New York in July to pick up the device and stay for the orientation and training was about equally expensive and a concern. USF came to the rescue.

“Nico Karagosian (senior director of development), and the folks with the CAS Foundation, and my directors at AIST, Drs. Lori Collins and Travis Doering, upon hearing that I was chosen for this program, generously reached out to pay for travel and board,” Evans said.

In the “one device, many explorers” project, Evans is one of the lucky 2,000+ who were given the coveted opportunity to be among the first to use Google Glass. Another 6,000 are waiting in the wings to be chosen until 8,000 are gradually distributed.

And he’s thrilled about it.

“There’s today. There’s tomorrow. Things will never be the same,” Evans said.

“This takes us beyond globalization. This is really about ‘glocalization,’ but we’re going to need a new word for this. And here at USF, we’re a good year ahead of everyone else.”

Many Possible Uses

Evans’ first use of Google Glass was to give Research Assistant Professor Lori Collins, co-director of the AIST, a call and show her his view from the top floor of Google’s offices in midtown Manhattan. Blown away barely covers her reaction.

“Joe and I talked and planned a lot before the New York trip,” she said, “but when I saw New York through his eyes as we ‘hung out’ in a Google on-line platform, live, my mind raced with the real and tangible possibilities for using ‘Glass in Class.’

“At AIST we are working with lots of new technologies in 3D and visualization, including ways to bring immersive experiences such as Google Glass to the class and develop ways to preserve and protect world heritage.”

Collins explained that it will be possible to interact with classrooms here and around the world “live from the site locale with students seeing firsthand what the field work is like through the eyes of the archaeologist.”

Archeology is just one use. Evans says, “As much as I like looking at the past, I like keeping people alive today. So he called on his fellow graduate student Alex Montiel-Ishino to partner with him on the application.

Montiel-Ishino, who just earned his master’s degree, with a double major in anthropology and public health, wants to see Glass used to research new ways to deliver medical services – though it won’t be the first time.

More Ideas Welcome

Following Google’s lead, Evans and Montiel-Ishino want to expand beyond their own disciplines. They are reaching out to the USF community with the same question that brought Glass to them, “What would you do with Glass?”

“How can we create self-actualizing learning environments. It’s not just about creativity for creativity’s sake or for just playing,” said Montiel-Ishino.

Collins is already on board.

“This new endeavor with Glass will be brought into the classroom this semester at USF, with students in my Museum Visualizations and Technologies for Heritage Preservation courses learning about AR (augmented realty).

“Seeing through ‘Joe's eyes’ can provide a rich experience for both students and researchers and potentially open new ways for me to teach and work with students in this fast-paced digital world,” Collins said. “I am thrilled with the future.”

There’s interest around campus already: USF Athletics, medical doctors at Tampa General Hospital, as well as anthropologists in Evans’ department.

And Evans is keeping busy off campus.

“So far I've used Glass to assist in the digital documentation of a Cape Canaveral Launch Facility, Area 55. I plan to take it abroad to Mexico in the upcoming months as well as to conferences,” he said.


Living With Glass

Before giving Montiel-Ishino an extended turn to live with Glass in Philadelphia, where he is working toward his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, Evans is making this powerful tool an integral part of his daily life.

He checks out the time of day, the temperature and traffic conditions first thing in the morning and throughout the day. He uses Glass to make phone calls, get messages, answer emails, receive appointment reminders; the list goes on and on. Glass is synched to his phone and the Internet. Even so, he says, “It’s actually off more than it’s on. I use it as needed.”

Messages are in the upper right quadrant of the right lens – to be exact – about 30 - 40 degrees above the horizon – unobtrusive and transparent.

And as noted, he talks to Glass. First Evans says, “Ok Glass,” then issues voice commands, such as, “Glass check email,” and Glass can read his email to him or display it. He can also dictate notes. A menu of options – including taking photos and recording 720p HD video – is literally at his fingertips. He slides a finger in four directions along the side, which is a touchpad. But for Evans, “About 80 percent is voice commands, the rest is touch,” he said.


Ethical Dilemmas

Because Glass is so thin and light – whether one wears glasses or not – it is largely unobtrusive – a feature Evans values. “Holding a device like a phone or tablet creates a barrier,” he says. “Glass is freedom.  You’re never out of the moment. Now I can talk to people without having to look away. It makes personal interaction a lot easier.”


A recent commentary on the radio program “Fresh Air” related how one Glass Explorer found himself being avoided at a party by a woman afraid of being recorded without her permission.

Fortunately, for those around Evans, he says, I’m big on ethics; I’m big on privacy,” but notes, “There are no rules as yet. We need to start the conversation.”

Some are rushing to other judgments about the device.

The UK is already poised to ban the use of Google Glass while driving, likening it to the cause of distracted driving by cell phone users. But Evans describes what he sees as “non-distracting” – no more than what happens when glancing at a road sign for a split second while maintaining attention on the road ahead.

"Society has to see the benefits and not fear it. Glass offers freedom and opportunity,” he said. “But as with anything, we all have to learn to adapt. We will have to rethink issues of trust and altruism. The genie is still in the bottle at the moment. We can look at it and we can study it. But like it or not, the abyss is now looking back.”


A Bright Future for Glass

At least diverse points of view are in the mix at this early stage.

Evans observes that the distribution of Glass is very democratic. In addition to programmers, “Explorers come from all walks of life: developers, moms, doctors, social media mavens, filmmakers, average workers, etc. They have the potential to invent uses Google may have never considered.

“There are a lot of straight-up programmers, and the rest of the community brings the human perspective that makes suggestions for everyday and specialized uses. It’s an open engine,” he said. “Glass has come to us in the spirit of collaboration.”

Collaboration is leading to new applications and advances that are happening with tremendous speed. Though there is only a handful of Explorers in the Tampa Bay area, they and the rest of their community get to talk amongst themselves at a special online site. Evans says Glass applications are being developed to help the blind navigate environments and automate homes and functions for people unable to do things on their own, to name a few. “The sky’s the limit,” he repeats often.

Evans is looking forward to the day “when we can all go Glass to Glass” and take part in “instant meetings.”

Evans is thinking proactively about Glass’ future.

“We have the opportunity to set the pace and set up perceptions now. If we want it to be used for research, we have to lead the way.”


While we may not be able to walk in another person’s shoes, with Google Glass it is possible to see the world through other people’s eyes. Click here or visit to see some examples of what Google Explorers are seeing.

And if you have an interesting academic or research use for Glass and would like to consult with him about it, contact Evans at

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.