Google Glass 2.0 First Impressions

If you haven’t heard about it yet, Google is experimenting with wearable computing devices. Google Glass is eye-ware that projects a display on a small window in the upper right corner of your vision.

After a couple days playing with it, I have mixed opinions. Here are my thoughts…

The Good:

  • Display: The display is surprisingly solid. It shows up a decent size and brightness.
  • Operating System: The OS is fast and responsive. It seems to model a few of the Windows 8 style of UI. I know I’ll anger many people with that comment but hey, I see block-style, single colored, animated transitions. It’s where the world is moving, even Apple has removed most of the beveled look.
  • Voice Recognition: VR probably falls into the Good and Bad categories. If you are a white male with decent elocution it is quite robust. The core menu responds well.
  • Take a Picture: Press a button or say “ok glass; take a picture;” and boom, there’s a picture! The camera quality is actually quite nice.
  • Record a Video: This seems to be targeting a vine-friendly-ish 10 seconds by default. Press the camera shutter button and you can record a longer video.
  • Storage: When plugged in as a USB device to a computer it behaves just like a standard camera with 12GB storage.
  • Audio: The bone-induction works pretty well. It’s not super loud but it is certainly sufficient and convenient not to have to worry about an ear-bud or headphones.
  • Touch: The touch interface is intuitive and responsive. Once you learn the UI organization, the touch interface works beautifully.

The Bad:

  • Voice Recognition: Sometimes it works, most of the time it does not. I shared the device around the lab which has a diverse ethnic representation. Most of the time playing with voice recognition was spent saying “ok glass” in as many different speeds and inflections as possible, none of which worked.
  • Take a Picture: There is no way to line up your shot. When you tell it to take a picture, it takes it. The preview window lasts around a second.
  • Battery: It’s no secret that the battery life is poor. Considering all that it does though, this isn’t actually surprising.
  • Audio: While bone-induction works well for the wearer, it also seems to work well for everyone else nearby. There’s no privacy so phone conversations using Glass like a Bluetooth headset is problematic.
  • Voice: Only the core menu uses voice, the rest of the options must be touch-controlled.

The Ugly:

  • Cannot use without an Internet connection: The glasses are completely locked down until you attach it to a google account and connect it online. This is a problem because it does not support anything but the most basic home wifi technologies (WEP/WPA/WPA2). Capture portals and 802.1x are not supported so most public locations and many offices/universities are useless.
  • The Point: At the moment it seems Google Glass has no point. Once you get over the “cool” factor of the technology, you start to wonder how it will integrate into your life. By the 3rd day it probably sits on your desk charging until a new person stops by and asks to see it.
  • It’s not glasses-friendly: This is something Google of course knows, but for now, if you wear prescription glasses, this is not the product for you.
  • Power Saver: The screen dims often within 1-3 seconds. This is way too fast and means if you are reading some text, you often have to tap the touch panel repeatedly. I think this is due to poor battery life but it is so fast that it detracts from usability.

Google Glass Applications:

  • Google Search: Uses the voice interface for Google. Works well for simple searches using recognizable words. In my initial use it seems rely extremely heavily on Wikipedia parsing. If your search term matches a Wikipedia entry it will show you the main picture and read the first sentence or two of the description. Search can also listen to the music around you and identify it (same thing as Shazam and that family of applications).
  • Take a picture / Record a video: This is the primary purpose right now for Google Glass. With the exception that most people can’t hold their head as steady as a camera, the experience of hands-free video recording is quite nice. Video bloggers will enjoy the experience.
  • Get directions: This would be cool if it was available. I assume at the moment that it either isn’t implemented or it requires a connection to an Android or iPhone which I do not have.
  • Message/Video Call: Another neat feature, integration with Google Hangouts. Video Call seems like it would be neat if you call someone who has a webcam, but two Google Glass users would be kinda strange just talking while watching what the other person is seeing. The instant messaging feature is voice activated so it’s limited by the VR quality.
  • Call: When paired with a phone you can use the microphone and bone-induction speaker as a Bluetooth headset. This functions with a Windows Phone but probably has more functionality with an Android/iPhone.
  • Google Play: An application downloadable from Glassware, the Glass app store. If you use Google Play to store your music you can stream it.
  • Google Compass: Shows your current direction. Works well outdoors but struggles indoors. At least it tells you when there’s interference.

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