03 July 2014

24 Hours with Google Glass

So I've been lucky enough to get my hands on a pair of Google Glass and took them for a spin. Opinion is largely split as to their worth. They've certainly caused some excitement and a lot of chatter around the office.

Recently news has reached us that they've been banned at UK Cinemas, not a huge story but for some reason the media has made a big fuss about it. Why on earth anyone would want to record a whole film using a shaky crummy camera on your head I don't know. Does anyone download poor quality in-cinema recorded films these days?

The first thing everyone asks is about the privacy, are you filming me? toilets etc. I think this is just a fear thing, it's not that people record video where they shouldn't, it is just that they could. I remember the same discussion about camera phones, the amount of people I see texting while in the washroom is barely noticed any more....although it is gross. It’s slightly odd to me that people worry about this but they don’t worry about CCTV.

The second thing, (and I think the most important thing) that strikes most people is what do they do. OK so you put them on and take a photo or two or maybe play with the fantastic star chart app. After that it's a case of....ok now what? I think the big takeaway here is that Glass is re-active. It's great for notifications, texts, emails even phone calls work really well. Glass is happy to read them out to you and you can even reply via voice which works brilliantly. As a thing to "play" with, Glass is not impressive.

Most apps work well with voice, Glass does a good job of presenting the options available to you although it does need to improve. Google Play Music was notably poor here. You can't start nor stop music with voice, instead you have to tap the side. Any application that forces me to tap the side of the glasses loses the point. Why have a hands free wearable I can talk to, if I can only talk to it half of the time! I can tap my phone for that. It's in development though!

Next thing is in the car, obviously I tried this as a passenger :) First up the navigation app, this is very impressive. Turning itself off until a maneuver comes up then piping up with clear instructions and audio. Second is notifications with hands free, as I mentioned before, this is really great hands free and does mostly work well. However it is incredibly distracting. Even though you're still looking in the direction of the car in front, you're not focusing and so I would strongly suggest not using it whilst driving.

This leads nicely into my conclusion, what are they for? The hard cold fact is they are big and look weird. So you're not going to use them out with friends. I was very self conscious in public so avoided wearing them out and about. So if you don't use them when driving, don't use them in public and don't use them when with friends when would you use them? Which begs the question where are Google taking them? Are they hoping we'll all just suck it up and start looking a bit nerdy? Or is it just one big experiment?

So to conclude they are neat, they mostly work well and seem like a great step toward augmented reality. However they *are not* augmented reality, a few killer apps would work great for this but I can’t see that happening. I think the privacy critics will hush eventually. I really don't think much will happen until they make them smaller and more discrete, but maybe this is just Google's aim to nudge the rest of the world toward better lenses and smaller technology. For now I think Google will push wearables like watches more than Glass, watches don’t have cameras! I suspect Glass will become just another experiment or niche product. Maybe the technology for augmented reality just isn't there yet, but good try Google.


Adam Cameron said...

Yo Jaybo, just an observation:

"It’s slightly odd to me that people worry about this but they don’t worry about CCTV."

In a public toilet? Yes, they *would* worry about CCTV. Given the UK's love of CCTV cameras, I'd say the only thing keeping them out of such areas is a very real public discomfort at the idea of someone watching you go about your 1s and 2s.


James Solo said...

I meant to draw a more general comparison to the use of video, but your point (as usual) is well made.

I would be quite perturbed if Big Brother were watching me in the little boys room!