Mass Communications professor chosen to test high-tech gadget

Marcus Messner, a professor in the School of Mass Communications, was chosen for the Google Glass Explorer Program. Photo by Audry Dubon.

Sarah King
Staff Writer

A tech giant has entrusted a VCU professor with a new tool that could alter students’ classroom experience.

Marcus Messner Ph.D., a professor in the School of Mass Communications will use Google’s latest gadget that is not yet available to the public—Google Glass—in his social media research class.

“Basically they’re data glasses,” Messner said. “You have this glass box sitting on your glass frame and on the side of the glass box you can use this pad kind of like a mouse pad. You basically have a mobile unit computer with you.”

The glasses are capable of taking pictures, video, recording audio, sending messages, looking up directions, syncing to your Google Drive or translating your voice through an Android-powered computing system. The rechargeable battery lasts for approximately one day.

Messner obtained the glasses for his class through the Google Glass Explorer Program, Google’s semi-public method of choosing applicants to test Glass. He is among the second round of worldwide applicants chosen to test Glass.

Approximately 10,000 people in the United States were chosen for the program in the first round, Messner said. Messner was among applicants chosen to test Glass in the program’s second round.

Messner, however, is not the only VCU affiliate to get a chance to use Google Glass. Alexander Kreher, a film major who worked on an entrepreneurship project with two classmates through the VCU School of the Arts, was also chosen for the program.

“We were working on an entrepreneurship project to improve communication at the VCU hospital,” Kreher said. “Student groups were each assigned a different task and that was ours and we decided to give the Explorer program a shot so we made a video and we were chosen.”

After Messner was selected for the program, VCU’s Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) supported funding the glasses which currently go for about $1,500 apiece. Messner currently has one Google Glass

“Because the glasses aren’t publicly available you actually have to buy them from Google for this program and the CTE was so generous to give me the funds and I got them right before the break and I really started to play around with them yesterday,” Messner said.

VCU also agreed to pay for Kreher’s glasses once he and his peers learned they had been chosen for the program.

“We got two pairs and VCU paid for both because they go for about $1,500,” Kreher said. “Each semester the student group changes for the project, so they aren’t in my possession anymore.”

Messner said that his journey using Glass is still in its infancy and he does not have any set assignments for their use in his class yet.

In the spring, Messner teaches a combined graduate and undergraduate social media research class and said he wants to develop a research project with his students. “This is all in a very experimental phase, there’s no set curriculum.  I’m trying to get a handle on the technology myself first,” he said.

Messner said he wants to introduce the technology in summer programs as well as the mobile social media reporting class he teaches called iPad Journos.

“In the fall I’d like to try out how the glass technology could be used in multimedia reporting in conjunction with the iPad Journos course as well,” he said.

Messner stated on his blog that he hopes to conduct research projects with his colleagues in the Center for Media + Health and share their experiences with Glass as well.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that the Google Glass Explorer Program distributed Glass worldwide and 300 U.S. testers were chosen. Glass is only available in the United States.  The CT regrets this error. 

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