Quick Thoughts on Google Glass

This is a necropost - resurrected from the now defunct blog of a previous employer.

Well, I've had Google Glass for all of 30 minutes - so I thought I'd give you my first impressions. No, I haven't read the manual.
Me wearing a Google Glass. I've been photoshopped to look like a cyborg.
The first thing to note is that it is really well packaged. Everything from the USB cable to the bundled sunglasses are held together beautifully.

As someone who doesn't wear glasses, I found them fairly light and not too intrusive. The screen sits slightly above my line of site but - even when it's off - it is a distraction. It has a tendency to display light refracted from screens and lightbulbs. I almost wish it was larger so the edges were less noticeable.

When the screen is displaying white text on a transparent background, there is a noticeable "rainbow effect". As my eye darts around, there are little spectrum trails ghosting behind the text. I've previously experienced this on cheap DLP projectors - I've no idea why it's present on the Glass.

Compared to something like the Oculus Rift, the screen is great. There's no noticeable "screen door" effect (where you can see the gap between the pixels). That said, it's quite hard to get the focus of the screen perfect - either one side of the other seems permanently…. it's hard to describe… smeary?

The interface is a mixture of simple and maddening. Swiping forward moves you right - which just feel wrong to me. I get that it's moving right through a stack of cards - but it feels like it should be moving me right. Hard to describe - but certainly something which should be user customisable.

Everything is heavily tied into Google's ecosystem. I get that - but it's annoying to find yet another product which forces the beleaguered Google+ upon users. For example it seems to be impossible to share stuff with contacts unless they're on G+. I've got hundreds of contacts in my phone - which is paired via Bluetooth - yet Glass will only send to the half-dozen people who use G+. There just didn't seem to be any obvious way to send a picture to a work contact.

This also causes a problem with Caller ID. My mother called me and all Glass displayed was her number! My Android phone (in my pocket) was displaying her name and photo - and it was paired via BlueTooth - but nothing like that came up on glass.

Call quality was mixed. In an absolutely silent environment, the bone conduction technology works really well with voice calls. As soon as there's a bit of background noise, the quality drops and I had to stick a finger in my ear (literally!) in order to hear anything. Callers weren't overly impressed with the microphone quality from my end.

The various beeps and boops of the operating system work very well - even in a loud environment. I guess the pure tones work better than a human voice.

Finally, the voice interface. There's no doubt about it - you look like a muppet when you suddenly blurt out "OK Glass …. …. OK Glass …. Read aloud …. Read aloud…. cancel."

Voice interfaces haven't become socially acceptable yet. They're loud, crass, and rarely work first time. It's well supplemented by the wink gesture (takes a photo after a 3 second delay - which is just long enough to be irritatingly slow) and swiping at the arm. Tipping one's head to wake the unit looks like you're having a minor tic.

Overall, is this the future? Yeah, probably. But it's easy to see why these aren't on sale to the general public yet. The cost'll come down with mass production - but the user interface is far too alien. The mixture of swipes, dodgy vocal recognition, winking, violently swinging your head, and then sticking your finger in your ear make you look like an idiot. Mind you, I'm sure that people looked weird when the first walkman came out!

The real problem with Glass (after a few hours of playing with it) is that it is intentional crippled by Google. Everything goes via the moribund Google+. There doesn't seem to be any way to get it to integrate with your phone's contacts - or send videos and images to non-Google services.

Google have taken a brave step by releasing this as a technology preview to the wider community. It shows their strengths and the technology's extreme weaknesses.

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One thought on “Quick Thoughts on Google Glass”

  1. Isabel says:

    I had a Google Glass 2 recently for a couple of weeks. It came as part of an app called Envision that was created to make blind people’s lives easier by offering functions such as OCR, facial recognition, And product recognition among others. I really liked the glasses, including the navigation paradigm, but I can’t comment on screen quality. The glasses felt quite flimsy, and fell apart a couple of times as I was putting them on. They are very light and comfortable to wear.


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