Thursday, July 10, 2014

My tryst with Google Glass

Wouldn't it be amazing if what I need to know is right there in front of my eyes?

I'm a big fan of RoboCop and his heads up display and right from my childhood I always thought it would be super cool for me to have something like that. I think as an idea Google Glass is anyones or at least every geek’s dream come true. But is it usable in it’s current form? Not exactly. I think the Glass has a long way to go before it becomes mainstream and also socially acceptable.

How does it feel like?

… as ridiculous as those idiots who walk and talk around with a bluetooth headset.

This is what my Boss who gave me the Glass told me when I asked him about his reactions. This is infact right because if you don’t wear glasses regularly, wearing just the Google Glass makes you look absolutely ridiculous. For someone who wears glasses I think it doesn't look that bad. Look at Isabelle Olsson’s picture above. It won’t be long enough before brands make glasses that are compatible with the Google Glass. What makes it then ridiculous is when you start interacting with it.

You look autistic

This is the comment I got from a friend who was observing me interacting with the Glass tapping and swiping at the side of my head and winking at people around. It also looked like I was talking to myself.

I was not able to wear the Glass properly to start with. I wear prescription glasses for myopia and it’s impossible to make anything out of the Glass’s prism display without glasses. So I somehow managed to wear the Glass over my glasses. Even though I could see the display it was not exactly like the way I was expected to use it. I understand that the real value of using Glass is when I start wearing it all the time like my prescription glasses. At one point I had contemplated wearing it over my glasses all the time but the terrible battery life didn't help. Every 10 minutes it either went out of power or got heated up and asked me to switch off. It also had it’s random power failures. I wonder how the explorers manage to wear it all the time.

How does it work?

When I wore the Glass for the first time, it asked me to install the Google Glass app on my phone. The app was supposed to show me a QR code with the WIFI settings in it. But it didn't work. So I tried using the Glass Setup page on my computer and it worked. Once it got connected it gave me options to do some things like ‘Send a Hangouts message’, ‘Take a picture’ etc. It also asked me to pair the Glass with my phone for it to work on the move. After pairing with the phone it gave me options like ‘Make a call’ and also started showing notifications from the phone. I installed some Glassware using the phone app and the Glass main menu started giving me more options like ‘Tweet’, ‘Share on FB’ ‘Check In on 4sq’ and ‘Send an email’.

I tried tweeting but it didn't get posted to Twitter for some reason. I took pictures and accidently shared some of them on FB. I did manage to reply to a Hangout message I received. The camera was on wide angle all the time but the picture quality was really good, so ended up taking some nice ‘point of view’ shots. I checked out the navigation feature and it worked pretty well but I couldn't put it to some real use while driving. The Glass had problems in understanding my English accent even though Google Now on my phone did a better job at it. I made calls using the Glass and the voice quality was bad. My friend couldn't hear me at all. I played a song using the Google Play Music app on the Glass but it was pretty pointless without a proper earphone.

Overall a patchy experience.

How I want it to be?

The best thing about the Android Wear apps is that the primary way to use them is when they show me a contextual notification.

I think right now a smart watch is the most socially acceptable gadget that can show me a contextual notification. But I still think Glass is the best gadget to do it if it can do it the right way. But it goes downhill from the point it allows you to ‘book a cab’ or ‘reply to an email’ by talking to it. It feels so unnatural to talk to my glasses or watch. According to me devices like a SmartWatch and Glass should only show me contextual notifications in an ambient manner without me asking for it. That’s it. Everything else I will do on my phone as it’s almost an accepted notion that I can talk to a phone and do things with it. So here is what I think the Glass should be to become useful, usable and socially acceptable.

  1. Make it more wearable by not making it stick out. Target it only for people who wear glasses as an add on augmentor. Let’s see how it would look like then.
  2. Show me information at the right time without me asking for it or doing the autistic tapping, winking and scratching on my head.
  3. The only job of an app on the Glass should be to show me contextual notification.
  4. The only “actions” I do on a Glass should be restricted to ‘taking a picture’ with just a tap and ‘navigating through the notifications’ by swiping. No Tweeting or Sending email. Just transfer the pictures to my phone instantly and I'll share them from there.
  5. Better battery and cooling down issues. I'm sure it’s just a matter of time.

Nevertheless I think the Glass is an engineering and design marvel. It’s easy to be an armchair critic but I can actually imagine the pain they took to make the Glass as we see it today. Just that it’s not ready for prime time and I'm sure Google also knows it.

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