To be or not to be a Glasshole

by Brian Katz on October 21, 2013 · 1 comment

I have recently become a Glasshole. You know, one of those people who wears Google Glass around town. I managed to get a pair through work and we are looking at them for a number of uses but there’s no getting around the fact that sometimes I am just a plain old Glasshole. I’ve had enough people ask my about my experience with them that a blog post made sense.

Let’s get the simple stuff out of the way first. I have the normal grey colored pair and they are easy to wear. No, the nose piece doesn’t bother me and yes it is a little awkward when I am wearing them over my glasses versus with my contact lenses. Google will be addressing wearing them with glasses soon enough according to their PR.

I followed instructions when I got them and didn’t dive into wearing them all day. It does take some time getting used to them and in the first few days it seems many people get a headache from wearing them too long. It’s fun to watch new people try them on, invariable they put the screen directly in front of their eye and it takes time to explain to them that it doesn’t go there.The glasses aren’t uncomfortable and if you use the included sunglass lenses they are very easy to wear outside. As a side note, they are much less obvious with the sunglasses.

I had them paired to my iPhone first and found that to be pretty useless. The iPhone didn’t really provide anything for them and until they do I wouldn’t recommend them for those who use one unless they plan on creating a wifi hotspot from their device. I switched over to my Moto X device (a completely different review for another time) and setup Bluetooth tethering for them. I also installed the MyGlass app. Tethering the Google Glass allows them to always be online and function properly even without a WiFi hotspot.

The MyGlass app on the other hand is a great example of an app in search of a use case, while providing some functionality really just feels unfinished. When you first start the app you have to agree to post all your photos to Google plus and there is no good way to avoid the screen. Once you get past that though, it provides two pieces of functionality that I found useful. The first is it makes it easier to setup WiFi on the glass when you are out and about and it also has a function called screencast. Screencast shows anyone looking at the app exactly what the person using the Google Glass is seeing. Immensely useful when you have someone trying them for the first time (this will happen often).

So what can Google Glass do out of the box. Absolutely nothing until it is connected to a network. Bluetooth tethering is easy enough but they are much more functional when on a WiFi network. The problem with this is that connecting to a WiFi network is a lousy user experience (UX). Connecting to a wireless network means scrolling over to the WiFi connection screen, tapping the glass and then looking at a QR code. The QR code can be generated from the glass website or the MyGlass app. It doesn’t matter if it is an open network or password protected, you still need to create a QR code. It would have been much easier if Google had allowed the user to scan for networks and allowed the connection to open networks and provided a way to enter the password for closed networks. It is a pain to do any other way, especially when you are out and about.
So once you have your Google Glass setup with a network they become useful. You can get directions, driving or walking (transit has now been added as well). I am not sure I would wear Google Glass while driving because it really does require a change in concentration to view the screen and I just didn’t feel it was safe. The directions are accurate and seem to work well. I wouldn’t mind using them to find a route while walking to the car and then finding a way to send to Waze so I could use my phone as I do in the car. It would save time doing it once I was in the car. Glass is great for getting the weather and the current forecast.

Glass seems to be primarily a picture taking device for those who haven’t found a use case. By flicking your head up or a quick touch on the side of the device it comes alive and you can either say “Okay glass, take a picture (or video)” or you can touch the shutter button on the top side of them. It’s a trade off here. Depending on the event, it may not be welcome to say “Okay Glass” every time you want to take a photo or video but using the shutter button you have to be careful to keep your fingers out of the frame, something i have been guilty of more than a few times. Videos are limited to 10 seconds unless you press the shutter button again and then they will continue until you press it one more time. The camera takes fine photos but doesn’t really allow you to frame them and isn’t suitable for anything more than photos when you are close as it is a fixed wide angle lens. It would be awesome if the camera was zoom enabled. That being said, it’s great for taking a quick snap without taking your phone out of your pocket. I decided to use it at one of my daughters soccer games and while the photos turned out okay, they were so wide angle I probably wouldn’t do it again. On the other hand, in a room they would be fine and it’s definitely easier. For those who are worried about privacy, Glass makes a shutter sound whenever it takes a photo and the screen is brightly lit. Anyone looking at you can’t miss that you are using them to record things.

After you take a picture or photo Glass will automatically store them on Google Plus if there is a connection and you also have an option of sharing them through Twitter or Facebook if you have set the services up. Sharing the photos is easy although each one is tagged with #throughglass. You can caption the photo and that is done through voice dictation. Unlike Google’s voice interpretation on the phone which I find to be mostly excellent, it was a sub par experience on the Glass. You have to annunciate and if you are in a noisy room good luck. Editing mistakes is also not an easy task on Glass in my experience.

Glass also keeps your Twitter, Google Plus, and Facebook streams on your device easily accessible. If you get any sort of message they show up on the glass and you can read and respond to them. It’s a great way to see real time notifications.

This brings me to what kills me about Google Glass. Everything is in a time stream. If you take pictures, videos, receive some tweets etc, they are all in a timeline stream that you can scroll through, newest to oldest. If you care about what you just did this is great. On the other hand, if you want to see something that happened a few hours or a day ago, it can mean a lot of scrolling (it does have a quick scroll feature) but it has no way to search the timeline and do things easily. I found this to be its greatest detriment and my frustration.

There are other things you can do on Glass. It’s easy to perform a google search or end up on a web page. If you use Google Now it works pretty well with the card function. It is definitely a platform that will grow.

What else bothered me about Glass? Well it’s battery life is enormously lacking. I’ve found that decent use gets me through about three hours. This really is not enough time and unless you carry around the charger they become useless after a while. The battery compartment also gets quite warm while they are in operation. I could see this bothering some people. I think the case for them, which is a bag with a hard bottom doesn’t make sense. I would rather see something like the Bose QuiteComfort hard case with a built in battery charger added, similar to the way Plantronics has a battery case for some of their bluetooth headsets. This could effectively double the runtime of them.

So what was the reaction to wearing them around in public. It brought a lot of stares and a bunch of people asking if they could try them. It’s definitely a conversation starter. Most people tend to like them and think they’re cool until they hear the price. They mainly try and take a photo with them and maybe do a google search. A few people on the other hand run away. At least one friend refused to be around me and whined until I took them off. It didn’t matter that I explained you could tell when I was recording anything, they were just uncomfortable about the possibility of being caught by them. So much so that many of them immediately tweeted about it (oh the irony).

All this being said, I am not negative on Glass. I think Google Glass has a lot of potential. I look at this as an alpha/soak test with 8000 people. I expect Google will refine the look of them and lower the price. They have just released an SDK for the Glass itself so I expect we will see a bunch of apps appear soon and one of them may hit a killer use case.

What would make these much better for me is to roll some of the technology used in the Moto X into Glass itself. I want them to be always listening. Tapping the side or tilting your head up 30 degrees isn’t the ideal way to turn them on or get something done quickly. Imagine if they were always listening in low powered mode, the speed of response would be incredible and it makes it much less likely that you will miss an experience. I could also see an app that listens for keywords in a conversation and then floats up data as needed. Think of it as the contextual experience with a smart assistant. Google Now is a great example. You have a lunch scheduled with people and you mention as you are getting ready to leave one or two restaurants. Glass could check with Open Table to see if they have an open reservation for the time you want to arrive without interrupting the conversation for you to ask.

In the end, I think there are a lot of business use cases that make a ton of sense and I will do another post exploring where I see Glass fitting into the enterprise landscape. For the casual user or even the uber geek, they are still only half baked and will take some refinement in form factor, battery life, and useful apps before they become a necessary accessory versus the “I have $1500 to spend/I am a geek” must have tool.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

kimchi_mom October 28, 2013 at 6:54 pm

$1500? No thanks, but I do like the term “glasshole”. I was hoping to see a selfie!


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