Endless Jewish Possibilities of Google Glass

Need a Kosher Cafe? Forgot a Holiday? There Are Apps for That

Glassy Eyed: Jewish web developers see a world of possibilities in the new Google Glass.
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Glassy Eyed: Jewish web developers see a world of possibilities in the new Google Glass.

By JTA

Published May 30, 2013.
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Over the past few weeks, strangers have begun stopping high school computer science teacher Chaim Cohen on the street. A few accuse him of recording them without their knowledge. Even fewer blame him for all of society’s ills.

But many just want an answer to a simple question: Is he wearing Google Glass?

Cohen is among the approximately 2,000 developers throughout the United States who are trying out the search giant’s much-hyped wearable computer, a futuristic Internet-connected gadget that users wear like a pair of glasses and enables them to stream information from the Web directly into their field of vision.

Using voice commands and hand gestures, Google Glass users can take pictures, record videos, get directions and send messages.

“I offer to let them try it on,” Cohen said. “My goal is to advocate for this and show people that this is not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.”

Well before Google Glass is expected to be publicly available sometime in 2014, the device already is generating controversy. Critics worry that users will be able to surreptitiously take photographs with an app that permits wearers to snap pictures just by winking. Some bars and casinos, citing privacy concerns, have preemptively banned the device. In West Virginia, legislators have tried to make it illegal to wear Glass while driving.

But none of this concerns Barry Schwartz, CEO of the Web development firm RustyBrick, who can hardly wait to get his hands on it. Schwartz is one of the 8,000 “explorers” chosen by Google to receive the device for $1,500 apiece.

“We would be programming Jewish-related apps to help Jewish people use the technology to live their Jewish lives,” said Schwartz, whose company has already developed popular Jewish applications for smartphones, like a digital prayer book and Hebrew translator.

Schwartz’s vision of a Glass-enabled Jewish life sounds incredibly futuristic. Notifications flash when it’s time to pray. Nearby synagogues or kosher restaurants are instantly located. Important Jewish dates such as yahrtzeits and holidays are never forgotten.

Recently, a Chabad rabbi at Stanford University set up a Google Glass tefillin stand. Men who chose to don the ritual leather straps then put on Glass and the blessing flashed before their eyes.


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