So after my post about wearable computing the other day, a colleague from my time at QNX who had read it got in touch and asked if I wanted to try Google Glass myself. I was thrilled! Someone had actually read my post!
And yes.. it was a pretty cool chance to see Google Glass in person and try it out.
So I headed to Kanata to see my friend Bobby Chawla from RTeng.pro He’s a consultant by day and a tinkerer in his spare time like myself and has a pair on loan from a friend in the US. He gave me a tour of Google Glass as we talked about what we’ve each been doing since we were working on the pre-Blackberry QNX OS.
It turned out to be really easy to adapt to switching between focusing on what GLASS was displaying, and looking at Bobby as we talked. The voice activation feature for the menu was self-explanatory since every time Bobby told me “to activate the menu say OK GLASS” GLASS would hear him saying that and it would bring up the menu.
It aggressively turns off the display to save power, which does get in the way of exploring it, so I found myself having to do the wake up head gesture often, which is basically tossing your head back and then forward to level again – kind of like sneezing. I’m sure that will lead to a new kind of game similar to “Bluetooth or Crazy” – perhaps “Allergies or Glasshole”?
It could also cause issues where a waiter is asking if you want to try the raw monkey brains and you accidentally nod in agreement or bid on an expensive antique at an auction because you tried to access GLASS to find out more about it.
Between the voice activation, head gestures, and a touch/swipe sensitive frame, it’s pretty easy to activate and use the device but it certainly won’t be easy to hide the fact that you’re using GLASS from a mile away.
I didn’t have time to explore everything it had to offer in great detail, but what it has now is only the beginning. Clever folks like Bobby and others will come up with new apps for it and what I saw today is just a preview of what’s in store. In that sense, GLASS seems half empty at this point, until you realize that Google is handing it to developers and asking them to top it up with their own flavor of Glassware. If you have any ideas for something that would be a good application for it, I’m sure Bobby would love to hear from you.
I did get a chance to try out the GPS mapping feature, which I think relies on getting the data from his Android phone. We got in his car and he told me to ask it to find a Starbucks and away we went with GPS guidance and the usual turn by turn navigation.
The most surprising thing about them to me was that they don’t come with lenses. There is of course the projection screen, but that little block of glass is what gives them their name. They don’t project anything onto the lens of a pair of glasses from the block of glass, they project an image into the block of glass, and because it’s focused at infinity, it appears to float in the air – kind of/sort of/maybe.
So they work at the same time as a regular pair of glasses, more or less. They have a novel pair of nose grips to sit on your nose that’s mounted on legs that are long enough to allow it to peacefully, but uneasily, co-exist with a typical pair of regular glasses or sunglasses.
There are two cameras in it – one that faces forward, and another that looks at your eye for some reason – perhaps to send a retinal scan to the NSA! You never know these days. Actually, the sensor looking at your eye detects eye blinks to trigger taking a picture among other things.
So would I get a pair of these and wear them around all the time – like that fad with the people who used to wear Bluetooth phones in their ears at the grocery store? No.. I don’t think so, but for certain people in certain roles, I can see them being invaluable.
Bouncers or security at nightclubs and other events could wear them and take photos of trouble makers, and share that information with the other security people at the event immediately so they don’t get kicked out of one door and get back in another.
I’m sure we’ll see mall cops using them as a way to record things they might need to document later for legal purposes like vandalism and shoplifting. Insurance investigators and real estate folks will surely derive value from having a device that can document and record a walk through of a location without having to carry a camera and audio recorder.
Any occupation that uses a still or video camera to gather documentary evidence is worth a look as a candidate for using GLASS, although it would be better if longer sections of video could be recorded. In some cases a real camera will still be needed, but as the saying goes with smartphones – the best camera is the one you have with you at the time.
GLASS doesn’t really do anything that a smartphone can’t already do. The main value proposition GLASS offers is a hands free experience and instant access. Some of the functionality even still requires you to carry a phone. It’s definitely going to make selfies easier to take.
The penalty is that you look a bit like an idiot at this point, until fashion steps in and makes less obtrusive and obvious items with similar functionality.
My main takeaway on the experience is that if you ever want to piss off a GLASS user…. wait until just after they sneeze, and then say “OK GLASS.. google yahoo bing”
[EDIT] – I’ve since learned that GLASS comes with lenses and my friends relative lust left them back in the US since he also wears glasses, and I also learned that you can get prescription lenses made for them or buy sunglass lenses.