Although I have been a Google Glass explorer since the early days, I never really became an adopter. Now with the latest release, the buzz around wearables and the innovative ideas at SES and South By Southwest (SXSW), I decided to conduct a little experiment in order to increase my own usage and understanding of Google Glass.
For seven days I “forced” myself to only use Google Glass in place of my phone, tablet, or computer for any task that the wearable technology could execute. It was quite an interesting experience that I want to share with you. In order to simplify it, I broke it out into seven days/steps.
Day 1: Setup
The setup is very interesting, as the Glass itself does not allow for any real input (there’s no mouse or keyboard); all the configuration has to be done on the computer. In order to configure the wireless networks, you enter the username and password on the computer, which generates a QR code you then look at wearing the Glass; the Glass reads the QR code and implements your configurations.
A few other setup notes:
- In order to use all the functionality (directions, SMS, photos, Glass app, etc.) you actually need an Android phone (which makes sense, given that Android is Google’s operating platform), however it is a limiting and not very well-advertised factor.
- The Glass itself does not contain a cellular radio, which means you need to use either the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth on your phone in order to use any of the internet-powered functions.
Day 2: First Steps
After connecting my shiny new glasses to my Google account I was ready to explore the world through the device. Initially, I was very uncomfortable wearing it and it takes a lot of getting used to. I started this experiment on the weekend, which allowed to me warm up to Glass in my house for a while. My family’s reaction was very mixed. My 15-year-old immediately avoided contact with me and believes the world is going to end once we all have Google Glass under our skin. My 5-year-old asked me what that funny thing on my face was. My wife just told me how ridiculous I looked and made me promise to never wear it with her outside of the house.
Day 3: Photos and Videos
The big advantage of Google Glass is the ease of taking photos and videos. Google even built in a convenient button on the top of the frame that allows you to take photos and videos without navigating through the menu.
I spend most of my weekends having adventures with my younger daughter, and this one was no different. Google Glass allowed me to easily take some great spontaneous pictures and video with her in even the craziest situations without having to interrupt any of the fun. I was actually impressed by the quality of the images and videos.
Day 4: Social Media
What’s the fun of taking all these cool photos in our connected world if you can’t share them? Fear not; by default, Google Glass is connected to your Google+ account. It even automatically backs up all images and videos into it. While I am sure that some people are slightly uncomfortable with that concept, it is where we heading with wearables.
Any images you take can be easily shared with your Google+ circles and you can dictate notes and comments to accompany your post. Sharing with specific circles also allows you to control who sees the images (for instance, I don’t share my daughters’ images publicly, but do so with other images). In order to connect and share your images and videos on other social networks, you must install additional apps.
One of my favorite features is the ability to join the Google+ Hangouts (video chats). You can have an audio/video chat with other people, you can see their faces, and they can see what you see — which means you can share your real-time view/perspective through the Hangout.
Day 5: Built-In Apps
Google Glass comes with only a few apps installed. It’s primarily centered on Google functionality — you can search the Web via voice search, view maps, send/receive Gmail, check the weather, and — one of my favorite features — use Google Now. Google Now is a personal assistant app that checks your email and other sources, and provides you with reminders, customized information, and predictive recommendations. If you are using an Android phone, you can also send texts and get navigation and travel recommendations, and more.
Day 6: Extending Glass
You can connect your Google Glass to a small group of third-party apps (Glassware) through Google’s app store. Select an app on the Google Glass site and give it permission to access your Google account; once your glasses are connected to the Internet, you will see the app. Most apps are more a functional and somewhat limited extension of existing apps. For example, when you add Facebook, you will not see the Facebook app or its features like timeline; instead, Facebook integrates into the core functions and you will able to share your images and actions into your own timeline.
Day 7: In Public
My last day was about public interaction and practical use. On my way to work, my glasses automatically recommended a best route based on traffic (thanks, Google Now). This was really helpful while driving, and the way the glasses fit and the unobtrusive integration makes them a real driving pleasure. Now I always wear my glasses while driving (let’s see what the law-makers will come up with about that). On a side note, I purchased the sunglass lenses and now use Google Glass as my preferred sunglasses.
I experienced a few different reactions to Glass that day from different people. Within minutes of arriving at my office, numerous people were asking to try it out. I ate lunch at a restaurant, where staff members pointed at me and mumbled. I later stopped at the grocery store to replenish my Red Bull supply and encountered some unhappy faces. I also experienced a few moments when it was odd to wear Glass, such as when using a restroom, inside a plane, or while talking to strangers (yes, I was that guy).
Speaking of driving: As I was driving with my daughter last weekend, she asked for ice cream; I touched my Glass, said, “OK Glass, ice cream nearby,” and even with my thick accent (see note below) it found local ice cream vendors. I quickly swiped through the results, then clicked on Call to confirm that one place was open, and pressed Directions. I did this all while driving. Glass made it really simple and relatively safe.
Voice recognition – not great (for me)
For someone with a strong accent like mine, the voice recognition does not work well (unless you are searching for ice cream). I ended up sitting alone in my car or office multiple times, totally frustrated and yelling at Glass. If they do not find a good solution for this, I am afraid that a voice-only input will massively limit the adoption by non-native speakers (not only a Glass issue – HI SIRI).
Security – none
One of the biggest drawbacks for me is the lack of security. I have yet to find way to password-protect my glasses, so if they are lost or stolen, someone will have access to all my info. Also, similar to Google Chromecast, Glass is unable to connect to more advanced wireless networks that use protocols such as Windows authentication.
Configuration/personalization – not available
Google Glass is one of the first devices I have ever owned that does not have a local configuration. Although this sounds simple at first, as you start to use it more heavily, you start wanting some level of personalization such as changing sounds or start screens, which is not possible.
Battery life – very short
Google Glass is intended for search and go, so the battery life is very limited — about 20 minutes when it’s on. Therefore, it’s used in short spurts to get what you need and then it goes off. The navigation feature manages battery life well because it only comes on when you are about to take an action like making a turn; the rest of the time it remains dark.
From an advertising perspective, there is great potential for Glass in location-based targeting, in-store promotions, and the rebirth of QR code and visual interaction. And as Google gets smarter and more predictive, it will deliver more information and promotion into Glass that is relevant to me.
However, until Google Glass is connected to our brains (as my teenager fears) it will never replace a mobile device. As an extension of our mobile devices it could be great, allowing us to easily perform audio-visual tasks and quickly search the Web; but without a better form of information input, it will remain a companion device.
Are you using Glass yet? If so, have you found it to be a useful tool or simply a new toy? I would love to hear your opinions below.