New Technology Taking Body Cams to Next Level

With the help of CopTrax, the first successful field trial of Google Glass by police was completed.

Since the devices aren't currently available to the public, only a limited number of them were made available to developers, and Georgia Tech had 20 of them.

The university assisted in porting the CopTrax phone application to the Google Glass platform. Since the university isn't very far from one of CopTrax's customers -- the Byron Police Department -- the plan was made to test the devices in the field.

"We wanted to know if this would be a solution that would really provide a good way to know exactly where the officer is and to stream video and record his movements."

The field test was performed on Sept. 13 as Sgt. Eric Ferris and K-9 Cpl. Clay Fauquier were outfitted with Google Glass while running the CopTrax application.

The Field Trial

From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. that Friday while on duty, Ferris and Fauquier -- traveling in separate units -- responded to calls, initiated traffic stops, underwent firearms training and made the first known arrest using Google Glass.

"We're a pretty technology-based department," Ferris, who normally wears a lapel-mounted body camera while on duty, said. "We try to strive to use new technology."

He said that wearing the Google Glass wasn't a hindrance and that he preferred the setup to the device he would usually be wearing while on duty.

"It was actually pretty interesting the way that it works because you can see what your camera is looking at in Glass," he said. "When I'm looking in a vehicle -- looking at an occupant's hands or see what appears to be evidence in plain sight -- I can adjust my head accordingly to make sure I get it captured on the Glass. That was a pretty neat concept."

Fauquier agreed and added that with limited training, he was able to use the system with relative ease.

"It looks pretty cumbersome, but actually, after you wear it for a little bit, you hardly notice that you have it on. It's very light, it's not uncomfortable at all and it doesn't obstruct your vision," he said.

"We did get some strange looks on a couple of calls we went to and on a couple of traffic stops, but most of the traffic stops I think, of course the violators were more concerned with getting ticketed or going to jail rather than what we had on our faces."

During the arrest, which was made by both of the officers, Ferris' license plate scanner flagged a vehicle for expired registration. He made the stop, Fauquier arrived to provide backup and the female driver was ultimately arrested on an outstanding warrant for a violation of probation.

The emotion showed by the woman on the video was real, and was shown at eye level, with much better resolution than it would normally be captured in. Both officers said that the deopth of non-verbal information conveyed by those pulled over that day was apparent upon reviewing the footage.

Future of Google Glass for L.E.

Switzer said that the more his team has interacted with the devices, they have believed more and more that when they hit the open market sometime next year, it won't be a fad.

"This is really going to be something that I believe in the next few years a large percentage of the population is going to be wearing," he said. "It's just a really cool way to use smartphone technology without having to tangibly touch the device."

They were initially wary of the idea of officers wearing the device while driving due to the possibility of being distracted, but soon discovered that because of the way the heads-up display is positioned, users can easily divert their attention from it. The display is outside of a person's field of view, closer to the top of the rim of a pair of glasses, requiring the user to roll their eyes upward to see it.

"One of the things both of the officers commented on was how it did not seem to distract them in any way when they were driving or when they were using their firearm," Switzer said. "You can't see the display unless you purposely direct your gaze and look up at the screen. That was something we were pleasantly surprised with in Glass."

Ferris said that Google Glass is something he could definitely see himself wearing fulltime, and that it could be beneficial for other officers as well.

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