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Remember Google Glass, the headsets that look like regular glasses but have a small computer on the side that you can talk to and use to access the internet? Google Glass kind of fizzled out. It was discontinued in the consumer market. But now it seems to be getting a second life in manufacturing. Tasnim Shamma of Atlanta member station WABE reports.
TASNIM SHAMMA, BYLINE: At one of AGCO's factories, Heather Erickson is putting together an engine before it goes onto the assembly line. She's wearing her red and black uniform over her blue jeans at its facility in Jackson, Minn. And there's something else on her head - Google Glass
HEATHER ERICKSON: Took a little getting used to it. But once I got used to it, it's just been awesome.
SHAMMA: Awesome because Google Glass tells her what to do should she forget, for example, which part goes where.
ERICKSON: I don't have to leave my area to go look at the computer every time I need to look up something.
SHAMMA: With Google Glass, she scans a serial number on the part she's working on. This brings up manuals, photos or videos she may need. She can tap the side of her headset or say OK Glass and use voice commands to leave notes for the next shift worker. The company is based in Duluth, Ga., but has factories all over the world where it makes large tractors, chemical sprayers and other farm equipment. Peggy Gullick with AGCO says the addition of Google Glass has been a...
PEGGY GULLICK: Total game changer, yeah.
SHAMMA: She says quality checks are now 20 percent faster. And it's also helpful for on-the-job training of new employees. Before this, workers used tablets.
GULLICK: We had a lot of tablets on our floor. And the tablets were being broken just by being dropped. And tractors are very tall machines when you're climbing on and off. So we were looking for a solution that offered them more information in a more timely manner.
SHAMMA: AGCO has about a hundred employees using the custom glass which is attached to them and harder to lose. Each one costs about $2,000. And Tiffany Tsai says it's one of a growing number of companies, including General Electric and Boeing, testing it out.
TIFFANY TSAI: It was always my assumption that Google Glass was going to go into business for enterprises instead of mass consumers' consumption.
SHAMMA: Tsai writes about wearable technology and was one of the early users of Google Glass when it first came out in 2013. Two years later, it was discontinued for consumers because people were concerned about privacy, how secure the technology was. And it really just challenged some social norms. Tsai says with Google Glass, it may look like you're listening to the person in front of you, but you could actually be in a different world, watching a movie or looking up sports stats.
TSAI: On Google Glass, the recipient has no idea what's happening, does not see anything that the user is looking at or analyzing. And that creates like this disconnect between people. And I think that that's highly frowned upon, especially with older generations.
SHAMMA: She says millennials may be more open to it in the future. But it still has a long way to go until it's considered more socially acceptable. Meanwhile, at AGCO's factories, Gullick says the company plans to double the number in use by the end of the year. For NPR News, I'm Tasnim Shamma in Atlanta.
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