Monday, September 29, 2014

Blind Paralympian will use Google Glass so kids can see his point of view

From Fast Company:

Lex Gillette, a Paralympic three-time silver medalist in track and field (pictured), can jump so far that it seems like he's flying. Because he is blind, Gillette relies on his other senses (and for the long jump, a guide) to help him. Soon, kids in classrooms across the country will be able to experience Lex's point of view while he trains and competes.

Classroom Champions, an organization founded by Olympic bobsled gold-medalist Steve Mesler and Leigh Mesler Parise, connects Olympic and Paralympic athletes with kids in high-needs schools to boost their confidence and help them set big goals. This month, the organization won one of five grants in Google's Giving Through Glass competition, which offered up a pair of Glass, a $25,000 grant, access to Google Glass developers, and a trip to Google HQ to the nonprofits who could best explain how they would use Glass to make an impact.

Classroom Champions' winning pitch: put Glass on athletes like Gillette, so students can see what a Paralympian experiences--and how their abilities, not their disabilities, shine through. "We'll have Lex spend a month or two with the Glass. We have various other athletes, and we'll let them play merry go round with the Glass," says Messler.

Before the competition, Gillette had never heard of Glass. "After I read about Google Glass and how we’re going to approach the situation . . . I’m a blind athlete, and to be able to wear the glasses and have the kids see through my eyes although I can’t even myself, that’s amazing to me," he says. I’m a jumper primarily. There’s a lot of things that go on with that, having someone basically directing me down this runway, and I’m running fast, he’s making calls on the fly. I think it would definitely be cool [for kids to] see how all of that happens, see what that would look like in a visual sense."

Gillette also hopes to take kids on trips through other aspects of his life, from the weight room to the beach. In early August, he'll start doing video introductions with various classrooms. He'll interact directly with a special group of kids, but everything Gillette records will also be available online.

When I spoke to them, Mesler and Gillette were gearing up for a trip to Google's campus. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," says Gillette. "It's huge not only for me, but for the students.

The other winners of the competition include The Hearing and Speech Agency, which will use Glass to improve communication for people with speech problems, hearing loss, and autism; and The Mark Morris Dance Group, which will create a Glass app to help Parkinson's patients trigger body movements.