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Google Glass and wearables in education from a developer’s perspective

The objective of the project was to explore educational technology applications in math skills for the Google Glass. The project was successful in serving as a base for an early education math skills game. Mathy is able to generate equations with parameterized values making it simple to tweak the generated equations for users with diverse learning profiles. Mathy randomly selects a question type and generates equation values in a fluid manner. Mathy also utilizes gamification, wherein the application has similarities to a game, a score is presented at the end of the round allowing for users to compete with one another if desired. English is currently the only fully supported language, translations can be done by making use of the natively supported XML Localization Interchange File Format and cloning the englishToInt()function and rewriting the cases for another language such as Spanish. As long as the number system uses base ten, it should be fairly easy to implement language localization. Ultimately a client-server architecture is desirable, Mathy should upload user reports so an instructor can assess their performance and view trends in these data. This could likely be implemented with a web frontend for instructor use written in HTML and PHP and hosted on an external server; Mathy could POST the data to the web platform and the web platform could store these reports on server side in a database.

Google Glass certainly is a unique platform to develop software for. Glassware required that user interaction mechanics be very specific, thus greatly influencing the finished product as human-computer interaction limits were quite the hurdle to overcome. Furthermore, the recent deprecation of the Eclipse Android Developer Tools plugin and the replacement by Android Studio greatly restricted applicable development documentation primarily to Google’s official developer documentation. If you are used to being able to develop software by learning from sources that are older than six months, you may find yourself sorely out of place when developing for Glass and Android in general. Of course, the Glass is a beta product and one in a nascent technology category at that, so changes as described are expected. The most significant challenge was related to glassware testing, without the ability to emulate a Google Glass a physical unit needed to be used which complicated testing and decreased developer “quality of life” as even small changes required installing the latest build of the application on to the Glass hardware and manually interacting with the glassware until the application was at the stage desired for testing. Oddly enough, testing difficulties were exacerbated by the fact that explorer editions of Glass do not come with prescription lenses and the fact that a shared Glass cannot have a developer’s prescription lenses installed. This requires the person using or testing the application to remove their prescription glasses which results in a poor overall experience with the glassware as one might imagine. Furthermore, this limitation is also an inhibitor to deploying Glass in an organization such as a school; in the present form a shared pair cannot be worn by someone with prescription eyewear. Announced devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens [8] appear to be taking into account prescription eyewear and will be designed to accommodate these users without them needing to remove their prescription eyewear. Irrespective of the platform shortcomings at the present time, wearables such as Glass will likely find application in learning environments as this project set out to do.

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