Epic Class Uses Google Glass for Storytelling #WearableWednesday

So often we hear about a tech device invented to solve a problem. Then, along comes a hacker and the same tech is used for an entirely different purpose. Wouldn’t it be great if school encouraged that kind of hacking? Well,  students in the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) recently explored storytelling with Google Glass, according to PHS.ORG. The class,  “Location-based and Audience-aware Storytelling” was developed by Jeff Burke, Assistant Dean for Technology and Innovation. Students were given a chance to explore stories in a collaborative way.

The freedom to experiment, and perhaps establish ideas for how best to use Glass as a tool for creative expression, attracted students from TFT, computer science and even business. “Everybody’s actually learning, as opposed to being told how to do something out of the book,” said film major Cole Baker, who referred to Glass as “a freaking computer on your face.”

The class wasn’t just an opportunity for TFT students to work with cutting-edge technology. Working with Alex Horn, staff software developer at UCLA REMAP—a partnership between TFT and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science that explores the intersections of technology with culture—students wrote software so that the writers could utilize Glass the way they wanted to.


The collaboration was a success with two stories emerging. The first, “Bodies for a Global Brain”, is an interactive web series which follows two characters that believe the internet is becoming a conscious entity. The Glass acts as a messenger for the entity’s thoughts. The writer, Eben Portnoy, allowed for typical scripting, but also live Tweet mining during the filming. Here’s how it was accomplished.

For this fictional story about characters embodying “the global brain,” student programmers Chung and Karan Chugh had to create a “machine-learning” algorithm that would automatically select real tweets that would become dialogue for the actors. REMAP’s Horn created a program to send these selected tweets to Glass for the actors to say.

To teach the program about the language of emotions beforehand, students manually categorized a set of 1,500 representative tweets into one of 12 “intentions,” like “bond,” “inform,” “manipulate” and “evade.” Then during filming, an off-screen operator triggered the program to select real-time tweets from a library of more than 1 million that matched the emotions that Portnoy wanted the actors to convey at that moment.


The second story, “Grace Plains” is a murder mystery with a twist. Two actors help to set up the story, while also teaching participants how to use Google Glass. In this case, the story revolves around the murder of Erinne Kirschner, an AI scientist that was about to reveal her latest research until her untimely electrocution.  Her death may have something to do with AI, too. Sounds fun, right? It was created by Pierre Finn and Grace Plains and closely resembles the scripting used in gaming, as it uses interactions and allows for decisions or outcomes.

“We wanted people to be engaged in an experience with each other and with an environment in a way that didn’t require them to be constantly checking a device,” Burke said. The biggest “complaint” participants had was that they wanted the experience to last longer than an hour to give them more time to adjust to wearing Glass.

No doubt this is going to be a new trend in educational tools encouraging STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art, Math). You can only imagine what other wearables will be used in the future for classrooms, whether for aiding learning or physical challenges. One of those challenges may be getting through hallways when you’ve lost power, and we have just the thing — a GlassLight. Be a shining example on your campus.



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