As digital products become increasingly integrated into everyday life, many campus organizations are purchasing hardware such as Google Glass and other types of wearable technology to keep up.

Several University units have already incorporated these products into their curricula, including the College of Engineering, which has purchased 3D printers, two pairs of Google Glass and a number of GoPro cameras.

Sarah Bachleda, communication and marketing maven for the Center for Entrepreneurship, said the purchases were inspired by students’ interests.

“Being a hub of innovation, (we) believe that it’s pretty important for students to have easy access to hardware and software that will connect them to the future and where the industry is going,” Bachleda said. “The tools are also there to inspire students so they can learn from some of the technologies we have here and find new ways to use them.”

Some of the gadgets, such as the GoPro cameras, are also incorporated into Entrepreneurship Hour — a course held once each week that hosts entrepreneurs from cutting-edge companies.

In addition, the Jump Start Grant competition, which is supported by a grant from the Office of the Provost and provides funds to student startups, has added a new round called “Solve it, Make it.” Students apply by explaining how they would use a maker’s kit. If they are chosen, they receive an actual kit, use it to create a product and pitch their proposal for a chance to win additional grant funding.

Outside the classroom, Shift: Creator Space is a student-run workspace and program for students interested in building startups. The group allows students to brainstorm ideas collaboratively, interact with professionals in the budding technology industry and use new hardware products. This year, the space has 42 creators who do everything from making sweatshirts to hacking.

Though Google Glass is a work in progress, Shift has acquired Google Cardboard, a virtual reality toolkit, dual computer monitors and Myo armbands, which read the electric activity of a user’s arm muscles to control his or her phone, television or computer.

Business junior Spencer Peterson, a Shift leadership member, said even for less tech-focused people, the products are great to have around.

“It’s really cool to see how the technology works, where it can be applied, where it’s headed,” he said. “It’s a great thing for our sponsors because they get to have us use it and show them ways in which their product can be used that they haven’t thought of.”

As an ambassador for Google, Peterson helps gauge how students are using the products as well as where they find the most value.

The hardware is also helpful for students creating their own technologies. For example, a former member used an Oculus Rift, which is a virtual reality headset used in 3D gaming, and synced it with a Wii controller to a broomstick and created a virtual game of Quidditch.

Shift bought the Oculus Rift for $300, but Erdmann said considering its capabilities, the price was a steal.

“Going forward, I think we’ll see more and more very powerful, very useful and technologically advanced products on the market for incredibly low prices,” Erdmann said.

MHacks, an event sponsored twice per year by Michigan Hackers and MPowered, features new products each season. During the events, sponsors donate hardware products, such as the Myo armband.

Michigan Hackers President Matthew Stewart, an Engineering junior, said making the technology accessible to interested students is key.

“We’re giving them a sense of what the future is,” he said.

Some of the devices are given to students as prizes and some accumulate in Michigan Hackers’ warehouse, where students involved can play with the gadgets and use them for various projects.

MHacks Director Vikram Rajagopalan, an Information sophomore, said the technology is for students from all schools and majors.

“A lot of other people are saying, ‘Hey, if I just learn how to code, I can create all this really awesome stuff,’” he said. “Through that, technology is becoming a ton more interdisciplinary.”

Erdmann said technology is increasingly changing the way devices communicate with each other as well.

“There’s been a lot of research and development in how we get our mobile devices to communicate with our home, with our car, with our washer and drier, and with that intellectual interest has come a new interest in hardware,” he said. “And I think we’ll continue to see that trend move forward.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.