Hands On With a Vision of the Future With Google Glass

Hands On With a Vision of the Future With Google Glass

Joelle Alcaidinho
May 24, 2013

Back in April, Gregory posted Everything You Need to Know About Google Glass, and just recently at this year's Google I/O I had the opportunity to try on Glass myself. As someone excited about the potential of a minimally intrusive, easy-to-wear, augmented reality experience, I was still a bit wary. My time wearing Glass revealed all of my best hopes and worst fears about the technology...

Full disclosure: I really like the idea of wearable technology (though I generally prefer donning devices in wrist form factor). With a strong affinity for technology and design, while not necessarily being super keen of the aesthetics of Google Glass, I admit demoing Google Glass was amongst the most anticipated opportunities scheduled for my first I/O, especially after being surrounded by hundreds (or at least it seemed like it) of developers already wearing Glass at the event. 

So what's it like being around a large group of 1st adopter Glass wearers? There's a lot of awkward staring, considering everyone around you is wearing a device meant to capture life's moments! Whatever consideration people take before snapping a photo of strangers with their phone's camera seems to disappear when transitioned to a wearable eyewear image-capturing device. To say I was a little eager to try Glass for myself, to "see" what it would be like on the side of the lens(es), would be an understatement.

Setup: With a demo unit all ready for testing ahead of time, I didn't have a chance to go through the Google Glass setup process. But if you're curious about the specifics of what it's like setting up Glass from square one, The Verge has an excellent step-by-step summary.

The gist is each Glass owner is given a URL, you enter the URL into your phone or computer, then log into your Google account and pair your device. This process marries your name and account to the device, a binding agreement for now (no reselling allowed!). While you can do your initial set up on a computer, for access to internet service on-the-go, tethering to your Android phone is required.

The MyGlass app (above) for Android makes the tethering configuration process quite painless. And in addition to offering many of the functions supported by the Glass app on your computer, you'll also get mirroring (which means whatever you see through Glass will be "mirrored" onto your connected Android device). Before putting on Glass, I played with the MyGlass app and found it pretty easy to use, although getting mirroring to work was still a little buggy.

After a brief intro about the features of Glass, the voice commands, and the touch controls (e.g. "tap on the top right of the frame to snap a photo" and "swipe on the side of the frame to move forward"), alongside directions about how to optimally wear Glass (it should sit higher than eyeglasses, and you look up and to the right for display info), I was ready to put on Glass and get cracking. 

Features: In the simplest terms, Google Glass is eyewear with integrated information features overlaid/displayed over the right lens, information you'd normally access with your phone apps: weather, time, Google search, email, messaging. Google's UI for Glass is minimalist and modern, very similar to the Google Now experience available on Android devices. 

After a few initial swipes in the wrong direction, I quickly got the hang of manipulating the eyewear, although I could see how someone not used to different touch gestures might struggle getting used to the UI. Glass is very sensitive to the touch and I found it easiest to just use voice commands to navigate through options. Using voice controls also felt cooler, more natural, and soon became my preferred method of controlling Glass, though I discovered voice recognition can be unreliable in loud environments (it really picks up periphery voices around you a little too easily). 

The feature options available right now are pretty limited; the stock Google app functionality includes taking a picture, recording a video, getting directions, sending messages, and searching the internet. You can also read emails, make calls (as long as Glass is tethered to your phone), get the weather forecast, and start a Hangout (Google's chat room). 

Dictating a message was tricky depending on the volume level of other voices in the room, but considering the the 1.0 nature of the device, I was otherwise impressed with the functionality while wearing Glass, with additional app-powered features sure to be in development and released over following iterations of this possibly landmark device.

Glass currently has eight official media partners developing apps: The New York Times, CNN, Elle, Path, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Evernote. Of course, these are not the only third party apps out now for use with Glass, and more will be available as we get closer to a wide consumer release sometime next year. Sadly, I was unable to demo any third party apps for Glass during my test period, instead only given more time to test stock Google apps loaded onto Glass.

Being a regular traveler abroad, I couldn't help but imagine how helpful Glass could be for breaking down language barriers or providing directions while exploring somewhere new (if only it looked more like standard eyeglasses). Glass as a travel aid is still a bit of a ways off, considering first adopter Explorers (those chosen by Google to be allowed to buy the $1500 device as pilot owners) are not even allowed to take Glass out of the country! 

What does it feel like to wear Glass? Pretty cool, but also very, very geeky. It felt a little strange to wear Glass, but also very futuristic and I felt quite conscious of the fact that I was wearing a computer on my face. I'm not completely opposed to the idea of wearing a computer on my face as long as I don't look like one of the Borg, and Google has hinted various eyewear options with Glass technology will eventually be released to expand beyond these geeky-style specs.

Google's aspiration for Glass is one where technology becomes nearly invisible, with unobtrusive notifications and information available even before you need it. This first device is only part way there, but I believe a good first step toward meeting the goal of widespread use of wearable technology.

What functionality will Glass have when it's released to the public later this year? Perhaps something like the Playground video above. I don't know yet, but if the rapid development hinted is any indication, it will be quite a bit more than what I got to play with at I/O. 

Thanks to Google for time with Glass!

(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho & Google)

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