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September 19, 2013 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-09-19

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metro >> jews in the digital age

W

Seeing Judaism ...
Through Google Glass

hile more people are begin-
ning to hear about Google
Glass, few have had the chance
to actually try the device, which is still only
a prototype and not yet available to the
public for purchase. There are only about
10,000 of the devices being tested around
the country, divided among 2,000 approved
developers and another 8,000 lucky indi-
viduals who were selected by Google to buy
Glass for $1,500.
The glasses function much like a
SmartPhone except there is nothing to
hold. Glass works off of voice commands
in addition to the ability to swipe the right
temple to activate this hi-tech device,
which is surprisingly simple. If you want to
take a photo, simply say "OK, Glass, take a
picture It's easy to request and then view
directions while walking around town or to
get an answer to a quick question.
In a previous column, I looked at some
hypothetical uses for Google Glass in the
field of Jewish education. Undoubtedly,
some techie teachers in Jewish schools
will get their hands on Google Glass and
find some application for the device in
the classroom. However, some educators
are skeptical. Seth Dimbert, director of
educational technology at the Scheck Hillel
Community School in North Miami Beach,
explained, "In a traditional classroom, I
don't see where wearing the computer on
my face is an enormous quantum leap in
ease of use, efficiency and productivity
over traditional computer modalities."
In addition to formal Jewish education,
there will be many applications for Google
Glass that developers will come up with
in other Jewish contexts. For example,
Mike Vidikan of Innovaro in Washington,
D.C., expects that Glass could significantly
change how consumers shop for kosher
food. "As they start inspecting a particular
group of foods:' he explained, "notifica-
tions could pop up with information about
the kosher certifications, as well as reviews
and who in their social networks recom-
mends it:'
New York-based Rusty Brick CEO
Barry Schwartz already had the idea for
his JewGlass app even before he had the
chance to demo Google Glass. He now uses
Glass daily and has become something of
a Google Glass pioneer and evangelist on
the Web. JewGlass delivers customized
Jewish information such as sunset times for
Shabbat, prayer times, directions to nearby
synagogues and Hebrew translations for
wearers of Glass. The app also will provide

20 September 19 • 2013

Jason Miller checks out the Google Glass at Campus Martius as Rabbi Yisrael Pinson observes.

information related to Jewish learning, such
as the Torah portion of the week or the
day's Daf Yomi (daily Talmud lesson). It will
also detect nearby kosher restaurants and
then provide directions and a menu.
Released earlier this sum-
mer, JewGlass is being heralded
as the first Glass application for
religious Jews. "It's not a way of
bringing people closer to Judaism,
but a way to help people who are
already observing do it more effi-
ciently" Schwartz explained.
Another early adopter of Google
Glass is, in fact, using it to bring
Jews closer to Judaism. A Chabad
rabbi at Stanford University has
found a way to integrate Google
Glass into his tefillin stand on the
university campus.
As Schwartz commented on his blog, "It
caught my attention because a rabbi was
using Beek marketing' to attract Jewish stu-
dents at Stanford back to the Jewish faith...
The catch was, you would put on the tefillin
and then be able to put on the Google Glass
and see the blessing you would say when
you place these on yourself'
While the religious black boxes and leath-
er straps might not have been the hook to
attract students, the Google Glass certainly
was. Rabbi Dov Greenberg first set up his
"Google Glass Tefillin Stand" in the center

of the Stanford campus this past spring as
classes were coming to a close. The rabbi
found great success with the new endeavor.
On the first day, about 40 students put on
tefillin; many more than on the typical day
for Greenberg. Some Stanford
students who had been chosen
to demo the Glass allowed the
rabbi to use it for his outreach
endeavors, and the blessings
panel was custom-designed by
a Stanford alum who works at
Apple.

Downtown Detroit
Greenberg's idea has caught
on in communities outside
of Stanford as well. When
local Detroit Chabad Rabbi
Yisrael Pinson heard about
Greenberg's successful bridging of Google
Glass with his tefillin wrapping stand, he
thought it would be a great idea to rep-
licate in Downtown Detroit. And that's
just what Pinson did on the afternoon of
Friday, Aug. 16, in Campus Martius Park.
Using Jake Steinerman's Google Glass,
Pinson, together with another local
Chabad rabbi, helped Jewish passersby
utilize this device of the future to help
them put on a device of the past. Through
the Glass, participants could see a slide-
show about tefillin, instructions on how

to place them on the arm and forehead,
as well as the Shema paragraphs to recite.
More than 50 individuals took advantage
of the opportunity to fulfill a Jewish ritual
requirement and to sample the Google
Glass that day.
"I believe that every advance in technol-
ogy can be put to good use in the realm of
spirituality:' Rabbi Pinson said. "Actually,
not only it can, but it should; for by using
it spiritually it fulfills its highest purpose.
Many times I see people who walk into
morning services during the week and are
not familiar with the exact way of putting
on tefillin. Either they may be intimidated
or embarrassed. With Google Glass they
can follow exact instructions and do it like
a pro."
As more Jewish developers and creative
individuals have the chance to try out
Glass there no doubt will be more applica-
tions for Jewish-related uses. And if you
notice that a colleague sitting across from
you in the company's conference room is
wearing Google Glass and doesn't seem to
be paying attention to the late afternoon
meeting, don't worry ... He might just be
praying.



Rabbi Jason Miller is a local entrepreneur,
educator and writer. He is president of Access
Computer Technology in West Bloomfield. Follow

him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

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