Google’s latest offering has attracted its fair share of sneers and name-calling. But in the hands of people like World Wildlife Fund’s Sabita Malla, Google Glass turns into more than pricey headgear—it becomes a nifty tool for saving endangered wildlife.
“This is my Nepal,” Malla says while using Glass to view her surroundings. “It’s beautiful but very vulnerable.”
The researcher captures her fieldwork by using the hands-free device to take an image of rhino footprints, take notes on the animals’ behavior, monitor them atop roaming elephants, and communicate with her colleagues. “Glass cuts the work in half,” Malla says. “It’s an exciting next step.”
Google granted $5 million to WWF in 2012 to find innovative ways to preserve the world’s most vulnerable species. Technology like this, as well as drones, helped Nepal go a full 365 days without a single rhino, tiger, or elephant being poached. Thanks to stringent government rules and technologically enhanced patrollers, the population of once nearly extinct rhinos has grown to more than 500 animals in the South Asian country.
Elsewhere, a thriving black market fuels the demand for poaching. Some Asian countries value rhino horn as a status symbol and a medicinal source. In South Africa’s Kruger National Park, rangers struggle to control the poachers who kill well over half the country’s rhino population.
“Every observation we make, every technology we explore, brings us one small step closer to reaching our larger goal,” Malla adds. “This makes it all worth it.”