The last thing the internet needs is another jerk writing about Google Glass – yet here we are.
I’ve been pining to try Glass for awhile. I was, of course, jealous when my friend Adrian got Glass. Yet I wasn’t willing to shell out the $1500 on a product that was still baking AND travel from North Carolina to NYC or SF to pick them up.
Fast forward to August 15th, and I with a fresh tax refund in hand, a disapproving but not homicidal wife went over to http://www.google.com/glass/start/ and bought a set. Apparently they are sold out now, but for a short period of time anybody including myself could purchase.
I’ve heard about people getting attacked in San Francisco just for wearing Glass, so I was happy to see that accessory frames that Google sells on their site for$150 was available as a free add-on at the time of purchase. I knew it wouldn’t make me NOT look like a complete jerk, but at most maybe 64% jerk. Somehow, at the time, I was also conveniently forgetting how I once felt about those who wore bluetooth earpieces as a fashion accessory.
Anyway – I can tell you that the shades make things a little better socially. The first time I wore them, my wife who was engrossed in work, and barely acknowledging me saw the shades but didn’t notice I was wearing Glass. So………win?? More importantly, the sunglasses aspect allowed me to completely fabricate some social rules about wearing Glass. Since they are sunglasses, I’ll only wear them outside while I’m active. In sunny weather, everyone’s wearing things strapped to their face. It’s normal. When I went inside, I’d put them on top of my head. Kinda rude to wear sunglasses inside, so I figure maybe its the same with Glass.
What was the first thing I did when I got Glass all fired up? Tried everything of course. It ships with some games that get old really fast, but are pretty cool to show off the sensors on the device. Skeet shooting, for example, let you tilt your head to aim at the clay pigeons and then yell “Bang” to fire at them.
Then I moved on to the translate feature. This was massively cool, though I was actually not aware that this app (WordLense) was already available on iOS and Android. Either way, looking at a French textbook that I stole from my wife, I could see the Francais fading away and the English overlaying it seamlessly.
I tried more apps and more apps. The wow factor didn’t last long, so I decided to put them away and try them later in the field. This was also partially due to me trying to play some music, stumbling horribly with the UI, and eventually having a song play while overheating Glass and shutting it down. The UI is still a bit confusing to me, even though you eventually sort of remember how to use it. The main UI is a timeline of events. You swipe by running your finger along the side of the device and navigate to previous things that happened, like your last emails or phone calls. It was a bit hard for me to remember to tap the screen that says “OK Glass” to get to actionable things. Mainly, I think you’re expected to say “OK Glass….google/call/text/etc” instead of tapping – but sometimes you just don’t want to feel crazy talking to yourself, despite how awesome the voice recognition is.
So, my first field test…
My wife and I went away for a trip to the Santa Cruz Mountains for wine tasting. As my wife and I were enjoying the wineries, I definitely had my share of questions about Glass. Even one from a lady who asked if I was recording everything. This seems to be the biggest thing people are concerned about. Everyone: I assure you, I not only don’t have the battery life nor the storage capacity, or a good reason to record everything I do. Taking pictures sure is easy though! If the option is on, you can enable photo taking by winking your right eye. This is a little problematic for me because I’m left handed and don’t wink well with my right eye. I seriously have to move my entire face to accomplish this. Anyway, it’s super great to take candid photos when the moment strikes.
I decided to load up some navigation for our car trip. This was awesome, actually. Personal directions right in your face instead of on a smartphone. I wasn’t driving, but I could have been. This is the biggest revelation I’ve had for Glass – why it wasn’t really what I expected at all. Glass is NOT a screen on your face. Instead, it’s a tiny display above your line of sight….and it keeps going to sleep.
In the fine print on the Glass documentation, Google describes Glass as a tool to enable microtransactions. I think that’s the right word…it’s hard to find, and I may have thought of the wrong term. The essence is that Glass is designed to use quickly and then ignore. There is even a setting that, when turned on, enables Glass to wake up when you are looking up at a certain angle. So, wearing Glass, you’ll typically see nothing – but then when you want to check on something, you tilt your head upwards. After interacting for a few seconds, you stop what you’re doing and the Glass display turns off.
Not only that, but you have to force your eyes to look up – above your normal sightline to see the display. Its actually kind of tiring if you constantly do it.
Now, both of these together – Glass just isn’t a screen for your face. It’s not augmented reality. How could it be for a screen that’s painful to look at for a long time, constantly turns off, and is in a tiny window? The biggest surprise for me is that Glass is a wearable technology. As obvious as this statement is, because you wear it, you can set expectations similar to a smart watch. Small transactions where you want to see something quickly, and then you’re done.
Does this mean it’s bad? No – but I’d say it doesn’t have a real good use yet. It’s nifty to see incoming emails, take phonecalls, and send text messages without a phone (in hand) – but it’s just not worth the cost (moneywise or looking like a dork). Turn by turn directions are by far the best use. The Strava running app is a decent showing as well. Going on a walk/run/bike and being able to look up and see your speed, distance and time is excellent, but I think it needs to go a bit farther with things like heartrate and maps to make it all worthwhile.
I think Glass can really shine in tandem with a smartphone. Especially in the fitness world, or anything needing your hands free and your eyes on the road. Use your smartphone UI to set up an session in your app and then broadcast a heads-up display to Glass that you can always enable during your bike/run/walk/drive. Strava and the turn by turn directions take advantage of this, but really don’t set themselves apart from a smartphone enough to make Glass worthwhile.
Glass is open country. There are so many use cases that hand held smartphones are just annoying and possibly dangerous in – where Glass could really shine. But, I just don’t see the apps yet. As a developer, this excites me.