I had planned on a doing a deeper dive with Google Glass sooner but I wasn’t quite ready. I wanted to explore more scenarios with it before I started to put my thoughts in this post after giving it a preview previously.
I thought I’d list off some of the common things I get asked, usually by strangers, when wearing Google Glass in public as it should fill you in on the state of things:
Are you recording video all the time? Are you recording me right now?
No…have you seen the size of the battery (it’s tiny)? With a full charge, I’d be lucky to get 45 minutes of video before it died. Same goes for navigation which also drains the battery like crazy.
How much do they cost?
It was $1500US to join the Explorer program. It’s expected they won’t cost that much when released to the public. My guess is somewhere in the $300-500 range. The high cost of entry was (I believe) to filter out those that aren’t keeners on the technology (those that are willing to give feedback) and to cover the costs of support for a limited product release (initially) as we can call a Glass Guide anytime with any issues or questions. I’ve heard a number of people getting new devices swapped in very quickly if they were having issues.
What if I wear prescription glasses?
You’re SOL. Google is apparently coming out with frames that are compatible but you won’t be able to use your current frames with Glass. Rumor has it that Warby Parker is going to offer frames but also heard that Rochester Optical is going to be offering their own frames. Sifting through all the noise about this on the internet though, it seems that Rochester Optical isn’t necessarily partnering with Google as they are making their own kind of frames that don’t require disassembly of the Glass’ titanium frame which is what Google has implied theirs will require.
My device came with “Glass Shades” that make me look like the Terminator:
Do you drive with them on?
Yes, sometimes. Glass is technically a handsfree device. When a notification comes in, a tone is played in your ear (via a bone conducing speaker – yes, you hear it INSIDE your head). The screen doesn’t come on automatically. To see the notification, you have to either tilt your head back or tap the touchpad for it to display. Unfortunately, I find the bone conducing speaker too quiet to be used as a handsfree audio device with my phone while driving due to road noise. If you’re using the navigation feature, the display is on the whole time (commence battery drain!). Yes, I’m aware that a woman in California got a ticket for wearing Glass while driving. If you read the details of that case, you’ll see that when she was pulled over and looked up at the cop, the display came on and the cop cited her for that in addition to the speeding ticket she got which was the reason for the stop in the first place. She wasn’t pulled over because she was wearing Glass. She’s currently fighting it in court.
What can it do?
Honestly, not as much as I’d like. I’ve been describing it ‘like having a smartphone as your rearview mirror’. You get passive notifications to various things you configure like Twitter, Facebook, important emails and a handful of other sites that you can basically get ‘breaking news’ updates from such as Mashable and CNN. It also ties into Google Now so you can set up a number of different things that matter to you like your favorite sports teams, weather and traffic to and from work and home, etc. It also identifies nearby resturants, bars and ‘photo opportunities’ based on your current GPS location which is kind of cool.
With the recent release of the SDK for Glass, some new apps came out including a popular smartphone app, WordLens, which allows you to get Glass to translate a sign from one language to another. To test it out, I found a random sign on Google in Spanish that I had it translate to English – it does this in real time and doesn’t even require an internet connection which is huge for travelers:
Can I try them on?
Sure (wipes the head grease off before handing the device to the stranger) – these are very personal devices that sit on your head. Just like glasses, they can get kinda gross, depending on your activity level or who you let try them on. I usually just walk them through taking a photo as some of the other tasks it can do or view may be too personal – actually you don’t have to read the DM from my girlfriend out loud. K thx. This means that I have A LOT of awkward photos of myself explaining to people how they work…but instead I’ll use this photo of Steve Dotto checking them out at a recent taping to his radio show:
Do they work well?
I think they do. If you just want to get social media notifications and take photos handsfree, it works great. The ‘killer app’ hasn’t really arrived yet but a true software development kit was only released to developers in the last month so it’s just a matter of time before someone creates the reason to get Glass.
I tether my Glass to my iPhone 5S via bluetooth and the personal hotspot. I’ve noticed I use roughly double the data I normally use in a month. A nice feature is that once I arrive home after a day of tethering to my iPhone, the Glass automatically switches to wifi mode and connects to my home wifi without any intervention by me.
What’s your favorite thing about it?
The camera. I’ve really been impressed with the quality of the 5 megapixel camera in the Glass. I think partially it’s the post processing that occurs in Google+ but the field of view is perfect and it let’s me capture photos that I’d never be able to with a traditional camera or smartphone.
Google even formally added the ability to ‘wink’ to take a photo without needing to activate it or touch anything. You do need to calibrate it and I found I needed to set it to a fairly exaggerated wink in order for it to not be taking pictures all the time. I also wish there was a frame preview option. Because the camera is on the right side, often my photos aren’t framed as well as I’d like so I end up taking multiples to get things aligned.
There is currently no Flickr integration which means I have to do the Google+ to camera roll to Flickr dance if I want to post photos there. The sharing feature with Twitter, Facebook and even G+ is slow and unreliable in my experience with about a 60% success rate of the image getting where I sent it.
Do I need an Android device to get the full experience?
No. Google recently released an iOS client which removed most of the disparity between the platforms. The only thing still outstanding is that you don’t get SMS (or iMessages) on Glass if you’re paired with a iOS device. You do if you use an Android phone. Everything else is the same.
When will they be available for sale?
Google has said they would be available sometime in 2014…whatever that means. My guess would be late spring or summer as the prescription frames for the current hardware are due to available this month and I doubt the current hardware is the version that will be made available for sale generally.
How did you get them?
They currently aren’t available for sale to the general public. Google allowed the initial round of Explorers (made of up developers and ‘winners’ who submitted clever ideas for how they’d use Glass via Twitter) to invite their friends to the program. A friend was one of the original explorers and gave me one of his invites. It sounds like more invites are going out to those that signed up via their website and those that subscribe to Google Music. I’d recommend filling in the form if you’re interested as I know of a few folks that have been invited that way. Keep in mind that it’s currently only available to US Residents. So if you’re not one, you’ll need to jump through a few hoops to get them such as having a US mailing address with associated credit card and likely the ability to (web) proxy into the US to reach the Glass store to purchase the device. At least I had to do that. I think one of the reasons it’s not available in Canada (or other countries) is that these are still considered prototype equipment and therefore haven’t been properly certified as consumer electronic devices.
What don’t you like about them?
Since Glass is still a work in progress, it’s probably not fair to take too many shots at it yet since the software and apps aren’t really finished and they are just getting started. Google has sent surveys to Explorers asking for feedback and has a very active discussion forum for participants. Some of my feedback has been related to battery life (which can always be better on any device), the inability to fold them up makes them rather awkward to deal with unless you’re wearing them. The lack of a stand or dock for them, fortunately, the 3D printing community has solved this issue so I’ve got my own stand:
There is no question that Glass is currently fun to wear in public, at least for me. It’s new and different and people literally stop me EVERYWHERE to ask about them. I have had a few people ask me to take them off, which I have. There has been stories of people being kicked out of bars and restaurants for wearing them. This usually comes down to social etiquette and an educational issue where the assumption is that they are constantly recording. There is no obvious ‘red light’ indicator of recording (but smartphones don’t have this either). But in every case except one I’ve simply explained how they work to the person asking and they usually don’t mind anymore and even ask to try them on. The only time I was asked to take them off was when I was giving blood. The charge nurse didn’t want to be recorded and I didn’t feel the need to get into details with her about it. I can see some personality types having issues with this and wanting to push the envelope. I would have loved to taken a few shots from my perspective of giving blood but it wasn’t in the cards. I didn’t feel the need to force the issue for the sake of getting a photo.
I don’t wear them into public restrooms either. That’s the last place I’d want to have a confrontation about them. I imagine this may be problematic for those that have the prescription lens versions of Glass in the near future but that’s their issue to figure out.
I wear them at work but not to every meeting I go to either. Like using your smartphone in front of others, there is a time and place for that and you have to assess each situation.
Part of the fun of this experience has been to figure out the appropriate places and times to wear them. After using them for a few months, it seems inevitable that wearables (of some sort, not necessarily Glass) are the future so it’s just a matter of time before they are everywhere.
Addendum: I neglected to mention that Glass has onboard memory (~12gb out of 16gb ram) where it stores any photos or video you capture. When it’s charging and on wifi, it will auto-sync your photos/videos to your Google+ account (privately). You can also connect Glass to your computer and download them directly. On my MacBook Pro, Glass doesn’t show up as a USB device but if you launch ImageViewer (installed with OSX), you can access the photos/video. You can also ‘live-stream’ via a Google Hangout, but of course, you can view others, they will only see what you’re looking at so you’d need to sit in front of a mirror for them to see your face.