Google Glass goes on explorer’s tour of Israel

US Jewish Federation pilot program enabled participants to share their Israel experience in new ways.

Kids wearing Google Glass (photo credit: Aaron Herman/JFNA)
Kids wearing Google Glass
(photo credit: Aaron Herman/JFNA)
Instead of fumbling to turn on his digital camera to photograph the sun rising on Masada or to record a spontaneous piggyback race through an ancient amphitheater, John Shine can just utter, “Okay Glass, take a picture,” or “take a video.”
“With Google Glass, I can film something instantaneously,” said Shine who is an information technology director in the New York area. “I can capture myself thinking what’s my first emotion when I see the Dead Sea, what’s my first emotion when I see the Wailing Wall.”
Shine was one of 27 participants who the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) outfitted with two pairs of Google Glasses to visually document their Jewish Federations of North America National Winter Family Mission and upload their experiences onto social media daily. The mission toured iconic parts of the Galilee, Jerusalem and the Negev in addition to volunteering throughout Israel. They were also equipped with an iPad Air and a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition, among other devices.
While individual Google Glass “Explorers” testing this technology might have already visited Israel, this is the first known large group to use Google Glass in the country’s history, according to the head of Business Development for Google Israel.
Google Glass is a wearable computer fashioned to fit like a pair of glasses. A miniature prism attached to its upper right-hand corner is the display screen. A touchpad on its right side allows you to toggle through pictures, videos or ever-growing catalogue of apps.
It can be paired to the Internet through Bluetooth to a smartphone or through a WiFi connection, and it has a 5-megapixel camera that can also record high-definition video. To activate and operate Google Glass, you either say “Okay, Glass,” followed by a command, or you tap and then swipe the touchpad.
A pair is estimated to cost approximately $1,500, but is expected to be reduced once it’s available to consumers.
The glasses, which aren’t yet available to the public, were acquired by director of Missions and Development for JFNA Aaron Herman who escorted the seven families from all over the eastern seaboard of the United States and Seattle on their tour of Israel. Herman, in addition to being a marketing and social media consultant who toys with photojournalism, is part of the Google Glass Explorer program. Google provides Explorers all over the world with a pair of glasses to test and gauge potential uses for it. Herman obtained the first pair by becoming an Explorer, the second pair by partnering with iCenter, a nonprofit organization in Chicago that promotes Israel education through technology and other creative platforms.
Herman’s plan for JFNA’s pilot program was for participants to share their Israel experience in new ways.
“[I’m] saying, trying to tell your story,” said Herman. “Find something you want to focus on and share it.”
Herman started documenting everything from the get-go.
He was constantly posting pictures of their activities onto JFNA Mission’s Twitter page through just Google Glass.
Ken Ingber of Washington DC wasn’t even aware Herman recorded when they first met and shook hands in the baggage terminal of Ben-Gurion Airport until he watched it in a short online video Herman put together for everyone in their hotel one night.
Ingber, like some of the adults on the trip, was hesitant to try Google Glass. But once he did, he said he “fell in love with it.”
“I noticed that after one or two minutes you don’t realize it’s on,” he said. “It’s unbelievably natural to film what’s going on. This is my fear of usually videotaping with a video camera.”
Ingber’s impressions reiterate Herman’s belief that Google Glass doesn’t take away from experiences. It enhances them.
Adam Kipust, a tech-savvy 12-year-old, agreed with Ingber while sitting with him at the Leonardo Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem.
Kipust especially likes that Google Glass not only feels but also looks discrete, which he said allows you to capture more candid moments.
“With a camera, you all pose,” said Kipust.
With the glasses, he said, you actually see what’s going on.
Kipust exemplified this in Herman’s two-minute video he shared with the group in their hotel. Wearing the glasses, Kipust stared at an orange he picked from a tree in an orchard.
“Look at some great oranges we will be picking,” Kipust joked.
The video switched to another younger participant walking through the orchard wearing the glasses while someone else stared into the bin where all the picked oranges were dumped.
Herman said that watching these 10-second clips was eye opening for him. It reiterated to him that everyone’s story, or the way they experience the trip, is different.
Tour guide Yoni Shtern envisions Google Glass having an enormous impact on Israel’s tourism industry. Shtern is a graduate student at Haifa University’s School of Tourism and developed the tourism app, Micellulari (“From My Cellphone”).
Through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and any social network, Shtern said we can give the potential tourist “the direct experience and feeling about what we’re doing an Israeli tour.”
He referred to the mission uploading pictures and videos onto the Internet of how much fun they had all week, while the media reported on a Gazan air strike and a bus bombing in Tel Aviv.
But John Shine observed that the possibilities for Google Glass aren’t confined just to tourism or family vacations.
“The first time you see your child. Right. Think about their first concert. The first time they play an instrument. The first sound your child makes. It’s endless,” he said.