CINCINNATI – David Hensley makes a spectacle of himself every time he walks down the halls of Cincinnati State. And he couldn't be happier.
The Information Management instructor makes frequent stops on his way from Point A to Point B because he's wearing Google Glass around his eyes. Hensley is one of the first people in Cincinnati to score the device, which Google is only selling, for now, to select folks who apply to get a pair and who demonstrate their proficiency and enthusiasm for new products. And those willing to shell out $1,500 plus tax.
Hensley, a trim 43-year-old who speed walks between his stops to chat with students eager to try out the new device, talked his bosses at Cincinnati State into buying one for him and his students, and then he persuaded Google into selling it to them.
It arrived on Feb. 21, and it's been on Hensley's face or that of anyone who asks during virtually every waking hour.
"One of the exciting things about this product is it's not even out for sale, and our students have a chance to use it," he said. "I can't walk five feet without a student asking to see it."
Google Glass , which isn't available yet to the general public, is worn around one's eyes like glasses. It features 12 gigabytes of usable memory accessed through a tiny clear cube located in the top right corner of the frames. With the notable exception of needing to be paired to a cell phone to make calls, Glass does nearly everything that smart phones do (And a built-in phone is probably coming).
Using voice commands that always start by saying "OK, Glass," users can snap still photos, broadcast live video, and send Tweets, Facebook messages and emails.
Traveling in China? Glass converts any text into English (or another language), wiping the original text from the screen and superimposing the translation in its place, even mimicking the original font. Road signs, maps and menus are suddenly legible.
Google describes the appearance of the tiny display screen, placed inches from the right eye, as the equivalent of viewing a 25-inch, high-definition TV from eight feet away.
The Cincinnati State expenditure was significant for a community and technical college working on a tight budget, but when administrators asked Hensley what he would use it for, he said, he told them, "Getting students excited about technology is what I'm doing with it now. In the future? All of the above," he said.
Hensley envisions integrating Glass into all manner of programs, from chefs offering a view of what they're focusing on during cooking demonstrations to nursing instructors uploading their lectures for studying outside of class so that students can focus on hands-on activities in class.
He has used his to watch TV and movies, book appointments, mark his calendar and instant message his wife and coworkers. When a promotional video was shot on campus, he tagged along and recorded the action with his Glass -- footage that will be incorporated into the final cut.
But he gets really juiced when other people he shares Glass with come up with other uses. Could a reporter broadcast video live, he's asked?
"I don't know, but that's exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about! You've already come up with a new way to use it!" he exclaims. Within the hour, he identifies at least one way to broadcast – by instantly uploading video feed to Google Hangout and inviting others to watch there.
Darryl Bell, 51, pursuing a health care degree to become an administrator or manager in the health care industry, hopes to one day manage a group home for children. Glass brought out his inner child.
"I'm like a little kid with that stuff," he said.
Bell rattled off multiple ways he could use the device, coordinating care with nurses in another part of a building while having both hands free to take care of a patient, for example. "That's almost like having a secretary or an assistant with you 24/7, he said.
"Having Glass would save a lot of time," Bell said. "It would save lives."
Tyreese Lampkin, 22, is working on an associate's degree in culinary arts, envisions cooking demonstrations being enhanced by the instructor wearing Glass and projecting what he sees onto screens instead of multiple students huddling around trying to observe.
"It was pretty nice. I like to keep up with the gadgets as much as I can on a budget," he said. "I could buy it in place of a cell phone when the prices come down."
Glass captured the imagination of Ernesto Muro, 18, a business management major who plans to pursue hotel management. He pictures traveling with the device and having the foreign text quickly translated for him. "It's impressive how one little cube does so much," he said.
Hensley and others at Cincinnati State are thrilled to be among the first with the new technology as a means to promote the work being done at the college, which often labors in the shadow of University of Cincinnati, Xavier and Northern Kentucky universities.
He cherishes the role he's assumed as an evangelist of the device
and how Cincinnati State is using it. The one he has is battleship gray, without lenses -- but a a buyer can add prescription or cosmetic lenses if necessary -- and very noticeably not normal eyewear.
Google is working on more stylish, less overtly different frames, but Hensley isn't interested.
"I'm 43 years old, and I'm married. I don't care! I'm keeping the geek frames," he said.
All the better to draw attention to the device and the work he and others are doing at Cincinnati State.
"I don't dread getting up in the morning," he said. "I've got the best job ever."