My office asked each employee to try Google Glass for a week and review the experience. Below is the summary from my week.
Whether or not you’ve tried Google Glass, you’ve probably heard about the new tech that is now in the beta version. All I know for sure is that everyone has an opinion: We are moving towards the future! Computers within eyesight, always just a glance or wink away! The ease is extraordinary! Or the other side – It’ll take us even further away from our humanity! We’ll never be able to connect to reality ever again!
Glass isn’t here to answer all our problems, and it isn’t here to remove our souls and turn us into pod people or Observers. Wikipedia tells us that, “Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that is being developed by Google in the Project Glass research and development project, with a mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer. Google Glass displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands.” In layman’s terms, Google Glass is a optical device which uses a prism screen to give you the same experience a smartphone gives you now. It can show you the internet, take pictures, make phone calls, play music, look up directions and it does this with one-touch and/or voice commands.
When Google released it’s initial video featuring Glass many people were either extremely skeptical or eager. I fell in between the two groups. And after using Glass for a week I find I’m still in the same area. If Glass is here to try and replace smart phones in our daily lives, I don’t think the technology is fast enough, durable enough, and/or cost-effective enough to beat out it’s smart phone competitors. But I do think that Glass has a successful future ahead of it – if it can only find it’s niche.
The first thing you truly need to work with Glass is a GooglePlus account and while I already had that, I also use an iPhone which meant that I couldn’t use the geo-locational applications on Glass.* But that didn’t mean it was a waste of time. With Glass and my GooglePlus, I was able to take photos and videos, share content over my social media accounts, check my email, have my emails read to me, as well as search the internet.
With my background it’s no surprise that my favorite aspect was the photographic and videographic experience. It was also the most easy thing to do on Glass. Although, shooting video killed the battery-life on my Glass and also overheated the unit on my temple.
In the negative category : I couldn’t utilize the gps applications, the music player remained out of my reach (it wasn’t worth the signing up for Google Play when I only had this a week), and the internet was searchable, but the text was tiny and hard to scroll. I found that exploring the photographic application and usability to be the best experience Glass has to offer as of now.
I walked around and tried to compose scenes from my daily office-life. The quality of the images is quite good, and the scope and range give the images an unexpectedly human feel. The colors and focus are also quite good. The framing capabilities remind me of a GoPro – you don’t know how you’ve framed the shot until you see it.
One usability note I can make is how you take pictures. You can decide for yourself whether it’s creepy to have a camera on your face all day that doesn’t allow for it’s subjects to know when a photo or video is being taken. I’ll be interested to see how the government, businesses, and copyrights handle a piece of tech like this.
But back to the point: the three ways you can take a photo with Glass are as follows. The first is to swipe to the camera and click the shutter release button on the top of the frame, the second allows you to verbally awaken Glass, “Ok, Glass… take a photo.”, and lastly (my personal favorite) you can calibrate your wink in the settings, and when you walk around anytime you wink it will take a photo. The photo I took of my friend Katie [see below] is a portrait of her reaction to my winking at her and photographing her.
This point brings me to my biggest criticism of Glass. While it seems Google is trying to make the experience of life and technology a seamless one it fails to adhere to socially acceptable behavior. For example, while you use glass you’re staring into space and not looking at the person you are with. It’s disconcerting to those around you and many people mentioned that to me as I wore it. And I’ll reiterate what I mentioned before, winking in order to take a photograph. This is cute and funny between friends, but when you think of two strangers on the street or two coworkers in an office – this rides the line of acceptable or even harassment-like behavior.
In addition to the behavior of the wearer – the other criticism, that I’m not alone in making, is the aesthetic of Glass. It’s an extremely technical and futuristic, even somewhat “nerdy” looking design. It’s straight across band blocks your eyebrows and gives you a Mona Lisa poker face with all the charm of Geordi La Forge from Star Trek. While wearing these I started to write down the names people called me by: Robocop, Robo-Katie, Cyborg, and my personal favorite “Glasshole.” They have a solve in the works for this critique. It looks like Google is in talks with Warby Parker to help stylize their design. That would be a huge help at acclimating the Glass to a more socially acceptable norm.
But these criticisms are only considering Glass as an everyday tool. When you consider this as equipment for art, or first-person documentation, for interviews, or for communication, I think it’s an extremely useful and innovative tool.
Whether it moves forward as a tool for documentation or beyond, Google needs to solve the issue of battery-life, enable universal applications, make the Glass more comfortable and stylish to wear, and maybe most importantly – make it affordable. Once it does, Google Glass will truly be a must-have tech tool.
*Glass now allows for iPhones. At the time I used Glass it did not.