In the wilds of Nepal, Google Glass is being tested by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as a way to better track endangered wild animals and guard against poaching, under a testing program established by Google in 2013.
Now Google wants to extend the use of Glass by other nonprofits that could benefit from the futuristic devices through a new competition that will award five organizations with a Glass device, support and more.
“If you work at a nonprofit and have an idea for how to make more of a difference with Glass, share your ideas at g.co/givingthroughglass by 11:59 PDT on May 20, 2014,” wrote Jacquelline Fuller, the director of Google.org, in an April 22 post on the Google Official Blog. “Five U.S.-based nonprofits will get a Glass device, a trip to a Google office for training, a $25,000 grant, and help from Google developers to make your Glass project a reality.”
The latest program is an offshoot of a program Google began in October 2013, when it began a Giving through Glass Explorer program to give a Glass device to five organizations, including the WWF, to see how it could help them in their work.
The WWF has been testing the Glass device it received under that program in the tall grasslands of Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, where Sabita Malla, a senior research officer at WWF, “is hard at work protecting rhinos and Bengal tigers from poaching,” wrote Fuller. “She spends her days collecting data about wildlife in order to track the animals, assess threats and provide support where needed.”
In recent months, Malla has been experimenting with Glass to conduct her work, Fuller wrote. “Rhino monitoring can be a slow process, especially in habitats with tricky terrain, but data collection is crucial for making the right conservation decisions. Most parts of Chitwan National Park are inaccessible to vehicles, so Sabita and her team ride in on elephants, and have been collecting health and habitat data using pencil and paper.”
A custom-built Glassware app, called Field Notes, is helping Malla to gather the information hands-free, rather than having to enter notes with pencil and paper while bouncing around on the back of a huge elephant. “That’s helpful for both accuracy and safety when you’re on an elephant,” wrote Fuller. “Using voice commands, Sabita and other researchers can take photos and videos, and map a rhino’s location, size, weight and other notable characteristics. The notes collected can also be automatically uploaded to a shared doc back at the office, making it easier to collaborate with other researchers, and potentially a lot faster than typing up handwritten notes.”
The possibilities of such innovative uses and possibilities provide the idea behind the latest Google Glass competition for nonprofits.
Shubash Lohani, deputy director of the WWF’s Eastern Himalayas Program, told eWEEK in an interview that the Glass device received by his organization is still in early testing, but that it offers unique possibilities for the people who collect information in the wild on behalf of the WWF.
Google Seeking Nonprofit Groups to Receive Glass Grants
Presently, the workers have to hold and use cameras, GPS equipment and other devices while taking notes by hand and riding on the tall elephants, he said. “They patrol on a regular basis to find out if there are any illegal activities going on, such as poaching.”
Using Glass, the workers could store images and video without having to hold and use multiple devices, and then transmit them later when they have Internet access, said Lohani. “Being on an elephant’s back, you are doing multiple things at one time on an unstable animal. We’re hoping to provide hands-free experiences for the workers who are getting the data so they can be safer taking photos and videos and recording GPS positions, habitat types and more.”
Lohani played an important role for the WWF in developing the Field Notes app for Glass that is being used by the researchers in Nepal. “We’re exploring the ways Google Glass can help us in doing our work, using technology to do things in better ways.”
Lohani had no time estimate on when the device and app would actually be used in real-life monitoring programs on behalf of the WWF in the future. “It’s going to be a process, including testing, getting feedback and developing the software,” he said. “We are excited about the potential of this. We have started this journey. Hopefully, we will be able to use this for our regular work very soon.”
Glass is being used in many innovative ways around the world.
Emergency room doctors in a busy Boston hospital are using Glass to get patient information much faster, while also allowing doctors to focus more on their patients instead of on computers, according to a recent eWEEK report.
Meanwhile, researchers in England are using Glass with patients who have Parkinson’s disease in early trial experiments aimed at finding new ways to help people affected by this debilitating disease. The work, which is being conducted at Newcastle University in England, is showing early promise in helping patients remember to take their medications and giving users more confidence as they fight the disease.