Technology | Elections

Google Glass: Coming Soon To A Campaign Trail Near You

NPR | March 17, 2014 8:59 a.m.

Contributed By:

Don Gonyea

Campaign workers and other political operatives are trying to find ways to use Google Glass on the campaign trail.

Campaign workers and other political operatives are trying to find ways to use Google Glass on the campaign trail.

AFP/Getty Images, Frederic J. Brown

Google Glass is looking to be the next must-have digital device. The small computer you wear like eyeglasses allows you to surf the web, email, text, take photos, shoot and stream live video and more — hands-free.

For now Google Glass is in very limited release, but even so, political professionals are eagerly exploring how it could become a powerful campaign tool.

I have been covering big, crowded, political events of all kinds for a long time; conventions, campaign rallies, caucuses, committee meetings. But at this month’s Conservative Political Action Conference I encountered something I’d not seen before, an activist working the bustling hallways wearing Google Glass.

“I’m trying to figure out ways activists can use it in the field,” says Peter Ildefonso, a 25-year-old Republican and software developer from Severna Park, Md.

Ildefonso works for a non-profit called the Leadership Institute that trains young conservatives. In an online webinar, two members of their team discuss Google Glass and its uses as a tool to capture video of the opposition at public events and rallies. They cite its advantages over a cell phone camera and the ability to “capture more footage and to move around more freely without being as obvious.”

Meanwhile, digital strategists for President Obama’s campaigns are also studying how to take advantage Google Glass. Betsy Hoover is with a group called 270Strategies.

“I do think that wearable technology, Google Glass being the front runner of that right now, is fascinating,” Hoover says.

Glass could make it easier to communicate more seamlessly with campaign workers. Someone at HQ could send a message to the screen of a volunteer standing on a porch knocking on a door. Or watch a live video stream of volunteers talking to voters — depending on privacy laws, of course.

Then there’s social media. The 2012 Obama campaign used Twitter and Facebook to connect supporters with one another. Hoover says those sites became even more important because people could access them on their smartphones. Hoover says Google Glass takes things to the next level.

“They don’t have to pull their phone out of their pocket; they don’t have to unlock it and go to the app they want,” she says. “Rather, that experience is layered right on top of what they are doing when they’re walking around, when they are reading street signs [or] when they are waiting for the bus.”

And, she says, a Google Glass wearer may even be able to receive information about a rally nearby, or volunteer opportunities, all based on their location at any moment.

“People are instantly available, and that’s really exciting in terms of what campaigns and elected officials can do,” she says.

Daniel Kreiss, a professor at the University of North Carolina, studies the impact of evolving technology on political campaigns, says more ways in which those involved in politics can share their experiences with their social networks would be very valuable for campaigns.

“It potentially could encourage people who might be disengaged and less interested in politics to get more involved,” Kreiss says.

Kreiss cautions, though, that since Google Glass isn’t available to the general public yet, it’s not yet known if it will take off commercially, something that would be necessary for it to be a hit in the political world as well. He suggests that it’s most likely that it will help campaigns get even better at the basics.

“Which is making voter contacts and monitoring the opposition, whether it’s on the campaign trail or whether it’s making contact with a voter on the doorstep [or] at a party convention,” he says.

Don’t look for Google Glass to play a big role in the 2013 elections. Recall that in 2008, Twitter was around, but not a big deal. By 2012, both major presidential campaigns had Twitter war rooms. Google Glass might one day have a story like that of its own.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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