Alice through the Google Glass

30th June 2014

Today has been an exciting day in the office, having returned from annual leave I find the new Google Glass boxed up on my desk. I’ve been tasked with investigating them and giving them a thorough review. Thinking to myself “could be worse”, I unboxed them and began the set up process.

Initial Thoughts

My first thought was the cost; I quickly asked my manager how much we spent. The glasses are currently selling for £1000 (including VAT), given they’ve just been released to the general public the high price is to be expected. Next I looked at the physical attributes. The first thing I noticed was the weight, the glasses weigh in at 42 grams they barely feel heavier than a standard set of sunglasses. The battery sits behind your ear, there is a touch pad next to the temple and the interface sits over your right eye.

Focusing on the interface feels slightly strange at first. It can only be seen by one eye, this creates quite a novel situation your brain isn’t used to. There have been warnings of “Glass Headaches”; Google recommend only using the glass for a couple of hours during the first couple of days, giving you time to adjust. The power button is hidden on the inside pressed to your temple; tentatively I turned the glasses on.

The Set Up

The set up process is naturally quite intuitive. When turning on the glasses for the first time you get a quick tutorial. Primarily it focuses on teaching you how to navigate the interface via a process of swiping and tapping. You are the instructed to sync your Google Glass with your smart phone. I was using an iPhone 5 with IOS7 software, I was instructed to download the “MyGlass” app, free from the appstore.

After connecting my phone to Google Glass you have the option to use your phone as a hotspot or connect via Wi-Fi. Both options are simple and quick to connect, when this had been completed, the glasses were ready to use.

First impressions and trials

I began to navigate the menu screen to see the options I had available; I decided to start with a test of the camera. The glasses can take both pictures and video, the camera is equivalent to the iPhone 4 cameras. You can either tap the button on the top or alternatively set the glasses up to register your winking eye. I quite enjoyed this feature, immediately I thought of filming a concert or a festival, you’d literally be able to get an effortless recording from your point of view.

The next thing I wanted to test out was the directions feature. Not wanting to trek too far I requested directions for a local McDonalds. Immediately a map with the requested route appears in front of your eye line. As you begin to walk you’re given vocal and visual instructions to keep you on track. My hope for the future is that one day the app will project a linear route onto the pavement in front of you.

Next I decided I’d call my friends and brag about how much fun I was having. Unfortunately things got slightly difficult here, I was unable to simply important the contacts from iPhone I’d synced it with. Google Glass takes your contacts from Google Plus, seeing as I’m not a consistent user I had to manually add the friends I was looking to dial. Still once this had been completed I was able to make a successful call.

Finally I decided I’d test the Internet feature, using the voice activated Google command I asked the question “how many Monty Python films are there?” Although Google wasn’t able to answer the direct question it immediately displayed the Wikipedia page for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. You can navigate the page using the bar on the side of your head, by placing two fingers on the side you can navigate using the angle of your head to click on links on the page.

Apps

Apps on Google Glass are currently referred to as “Glassware”, currently there are 64 apps available. You can access your email account on the go with the glasses, check the weather and get flight and weather information for any upcoming travels.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time to investigate all of the apps but of course I downloaded a couple. The Guardian app I particularly liked, you have the ability to flick through stories and have the device read you the essential details or alternatively you can save stories to read later. You can also integrate your social media to the Glass platform; both Facebook and Twitter have apps available in Glassware form.

Of course the app selection is currently limited but as time progresses we expect to see a huge increase in the scope of apps designed exclusive for us with the Glass interface.

Conclusion

I have thoroughly enjoyed my day playing and experimenting with Google Glass but there are some caveats that are worth noting with this endorsement. Firstly, although they are good fun to wear around the office, I can’t imagine wearing them outside. Not only would it seem a bit odd but also they still feel obtrusive when you’re attempting to do other things. There is every chance that this feeling would go away with increased usage however the advantage of the smart phone is that it can just be dropped in your pocket when not in use. Secondly and I won’t be the first or last to make this comment, the battery life. Google states that a full battery will allow for “one day of typical battery life” however as with popular smart phone claims this is often not the case.

My final thoughts on the matter are that Google Glass is a potentially revolutionary piece of technology. It doesn’t necessarily do everything we want on the first release but neither did the world’s first smart phone. With sufficient investment from third party developers and a substantial drop in the price I would definitely predict mass adoption by the general public. For now it’s something to keep an eye on.

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